Winter Health Tips for Seniors

By Katharine Paljug @YourCareE
October 25, 2023
Winter Health Tips for Seniors

Do you know how to protect your heart, avoid falls, and prevent hypothermia? These health tips for seniors will help you during cold winter weather.

Cold weather presents specific health challenges as you grow older. Protect yourself, or any elderly friends and relatives, with these winter health and safety tips.


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Protect your heart during winter

Cold weather causes your arteries to narrow, decreasing the supply of blood going to your heart. At the same time, your body must pump blood to your extremities to keep you warm. That puts increased strain on anyone’s heart during winter, but it can be particularly dangerous for people over age 65, especially if you already have a heart condition

Strenuous activities, such as shoveling snow or even walking too far in cold weather, increase strain, putting you at higher risk for heart problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Even a drop in temperature as small as two degrees can be dangerous, according to the AARP. That means that seniors in warmer areas, such as Florida, are still more at risk for heart attacks in the winter.

You can protect your heart during winter if you avoid strenuous outdoor activities. Ask a neighbor or relative to take care of shoveling snow or carrying heavy groceries.

If you must work outside, dress in layers to stay warm, work slowly, and pay attention to how cold you become. If you are shivering, take a break to go inside and warm up. If you experience chest pain, stop your activity immediately, go somewhere warm to rest, and tell someone about your symptoms.

Avoid illness during winter

Cold air can exacerbate lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, and asthma, making it harder to take deep, full breaths. To protect your breathing, cover your mouth with a warm scarf when you go outside in cold weather, and always carry any emergency medication such as a rescue inhaler.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that seniors are at greater risk for complications due to the flu. Between 70 and 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people over age 65. You can protect yourself with a flu shot; a high-dose version of the vaccine is available for seniors.

You should also get a pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis. Pneumococcal diseases often develop as flu-related complications in people older than 65 and can be fatal, especially if you are in poor health.

How to prevent hypothermia

As you age, your body has a harder time warming itself, putting you at greater risk for developing hypothermia in the winter. Hypothermia can be fatal, so it is important to stay warm, both indoors and out.

During very cold days, stay indoors in a heated space as much as possible. To help your body warm itself, the CDC recommends eating balanced meals, warm sweet drinks, and broth, along with avoiding alcohol. Dress in clothes that keep you warm but not sweaty, such as sweaters and wool socks.

If you must go outside in cold weather, you should wear:

  • A hat
  • A scarf that covers your neck and mouth
  • Gloves or mittens that fully cover your hands and fingers
  • Loose layers of clothing
  • Water-resistant coat and shoes
  • Warm socks

Do not stay outside for extended periods of time in cold weather. Shivering is the first sign that your body is losing too much heat. If you begin shivering, go inside immediately and have a hot drink to warm up.

Avoid falls during winter weather

Cold weather can make you move more slowly and become less coordinated. That puts you at a higher risk for falls, especially in icy conditions.

If it snows, make sure someone has shoveled paths around your home before you go outside. Watch for patches of ice, particularly black ice. Wear boots that are meant for walking in snow, and move slowly in unfamiliar areas or when you climb steps and curbs. If possible, have a neighbor or family member salt your steps and walkway to prevent ice from building up.

You are also at an increased risk for falling indoors if ice or snow from your clothing melts and creates puddles, or if you walk around in socks. Wear slippers with good traction on the soles and have a designated spot to leave wet clothing where it will not drip on your floor.

Protect your mental health

Seniors are less likely to get outside and exercise during the winter. Lack of exercise, along with less exposure to sunlight and lower levels of vitamin D, can put you at risk for poor mental health.

You can protect your mental health in the winter if you arrange activities that will take you outside or allow you to socialize, such as exercising at a club and visiting with family or friends. Volunteering can also improve mental and physical well-being in older adults.

If you constantly feel low energy, a negative mood, or are unhappy, speak with your doctor. You may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder or depression

Safety tips for driving in winter

Drive slowly and carefully during the winter, keeping your headlights on to help other drivers see you. Make sure your fuel tank is kept at least half full and that you use a wintertime formula for windshield fluid.

The CDC also recommends keeping your car stocked with emergency supplies, including:

  • A cell phone
  • Warm blankets
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Sand or kitty litter to increase tire traction

If it is icy or snowing, or if your ability to move your neck and arms is limited, do not drive. Call a relative, friend, or neighbor and ask them to take you where you need to go.

If you need help with transportation or other tasks during the winter, your local Department of Aging will be able to recommend organizations that can help you. In the United States and many parts of Canada, you can also call 2-1-1 or visit the 211 website to be connected to nearby resources.


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October 25, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN