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Older Adults Have Special Concerns During Winter Weather

While cold, icy weather can be difficult for anyone to deal with, Oklahoma seniors may have additional issues to consider.


“During extreme winter weather, older adults should be mindful of particular safety concerns, including falling, hypothermia and frost bite before venturing outside the home,” said Gina Peek, interim associate dean of Extension, Engagement and Continuing Education.  “Simply getting back and forth to the doctor can be dangerous in winter weather, and many older adults have medical conditions that require active treatment. They will need to work with their doctors to ensure no lapse in medication if they are unable to venture out.”


Older Oklahomans who find the roads too treacherous to navigate may also find themselves running low on medicine, groceries and other supplies. When that happens, family and neighbors should be asked for help. If you must go out, keep in mind that roads, as well as sidewalks and steps, can be slick and hazardous. Be sure to use extreme caution and follow these guidelines:


  • Wear boots with nonskid soles.
  • Weatherize any assistive devices, such as walkers.
  • Ask your neighbor to shovel your driveway, sidewalks and front steps.
  • Place ice-melting crystals on outdoor areas where you walk to help give better traction and avoid falls.

“Individuals who have health complications, such as a heart condition, osteoporosis or trouble with balance, may need to hire someone to clear driveways and sidewalks if a neighbor or family member isn’t available,” Peek said.


Extremely cold temperatures increase the chances of hypothermia and frost bite. Be aware of hypothermia warning signs such as:


  • Shivering.
  • Cold, pale or ashy skin.
  • Feeling tired, confused or sleepy.
  • Weakness.
  • Slowed breathing or heart rate. 

Frostbite warning signs include skin discoloration, numbness or waxy texture. 


“Be sure to seek medical attention immediately if you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms,” Peek said. “If you have an older neighbor or family member, check on them regularly through the winter, especially if there’s a winter storm going on. Make sure they have enough food and a good supply of any medications. Winter weather can be very hazardous and challenging for older adults. Let’s do whatever we can to help them weather the storm.”


For general information on caring for older loved ones, check out OSU Extension’s Safety in the Home When Caring for Adults and Aging-In-Place articles.


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