7 Ways Seniors Can Stay Healthy During the Winter
Staying healthy during the winter is challenging for everyone—especially seniors. The temperatures are dropping, and as we all move toward staying indoors more often, it’s the time of year when falling ill becomes easier than ever thanks to family and friends remaining in close quarters. To help keep yourself thriving and in great health, we’ve compiled a list of ways to stay strong during the winter season.
1. Handwashing. Did you know that handwashing is one of the best ways to combat illness? Washing your hands properly has the following steps:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), then apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap between them. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them (keep away from the automatic hand dryers, as they spread germs rapidly).
2. Eat well. As we get older, so many things happen with our appetites and taste palates that can make it difficult to eat a well-balanced diet. During the winter, be sure you receive proper amounts of vitamin C and eat lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Remember to limit foods high in sodium and sugar.
3. Stay hydrated. Many think because it’s cold outside, you can drink less water. But studies have found that it’s easier to become dehydrated during the winter. Dehydration happens, in part, due to lack of water intake, but it can also be attributed to diarrhea, excessive sweating, blood loss, and side effects of prescription medicines. Parentgiving.com writes, “Scientists warn that the ability to be aware of and respond to thirst is slowly blunted as we age. As a result, older people do not feel thirst as readily as younger people do.” During the winter, make sure you drink plenty of water. It’s also easy for skin to dry out, which can lead to tears and small cuts. Consider adding herbal teas, warm or iced, to your diet, and apply moisturizer liberally.
4. Get your flu and pneumonia vaccinations. There are multiple factors that can contribute to catching influenza and pneumonia. Some of those factors include age, heart disease, infectious environments, inability to cough strongly, and anything that affects the lungs. Aging.com recommends that all seniors get vaccinated against these diseases, avoid close contact with others who are currently ill, wear a medical face mask when visiting high-risk environments, and keep the home clean and mold-free.
5. Stay warm. The older we get, the tendency to lose heat rapidly becomes more likely. If you get too cold, the situation could turn dire, as it increases the risk of getting hypothermia. To keep warm, dress in loose layers (the air between the layers can help you stay warm), wear long underwear beneath pajamas, and wear socks and slippers—even if staying indoors.
6. Connect with others. If weather prohibits you from going outside, make sure you keep in touch with family and friends. Studies have shown that loneliness can cause high blood pressure, increase the risk of depression, and cause a higher level cortisol, a stress hormone. If you’re unable to connect with loved ones in person, consider using technology or social networking sites like Facebook.
7. Battle the “blues” with sunlight. Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D. When the skin absorbs sunlight, the hormone serotonin is released, which has been known to have a positive impact on mental health. Consider opening the blinds during the day, or invest in a light therapy box.
By taking preventative measures, you can work toward keeping healthy during the winter season and make the best of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Please note that the information provided here does not substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your physician.
Cathy Krege serves as director of clinical services and compliance at Provision Living Senior Communities. Provision Living operates 15 assisted living and memory care communities in four states, with 700 team members serving more than 1,000 older adults and their families. Before joining Provision Living as regional director of operations, Cathy previously worked with the Department of Health and Senior Services. Cathy has 35+ years of experience working in senior living. She earned her degree in health care administration from Cleveland State University