Ahhh, winter time is knocking at the door once again. As the coldest season of the year, winter often evokes thoughts of snow and ice, children sledding and cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows. The seasonal change is caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, orienting our hemisphere away from the sun.
Many places in the world define the first day of winter differently. Some use the weather as a guide to signal that winter has arrived, while others use specific dates as a way to define winter’s arrival. For the United States, winter officially begins on Saturday, December 21, 2013.
For those seniors who are lucky enough to live in year-round sunny locations, winter isn’t too much of an issue. Older adults often flock to areas in Florida or Arizona in search of some relief from the cold weather. However, many seniors are forced to stay put and do their best to cope with the harsh winter weather.
As we age, getting through the coldest time of the year can become a lot more challenging than it used to be. For example, seniors who suffer from arthritis and joint stiffness usually find their ailments get a lot worse during the winter months. It is thought that changes in the barometric pressure (the force exerted by the weight of our atmosphere) can affect joints. Many researchers have proposed the idea that a drop in barometric pressure, which happens during colder and damper weather, allows joint tissues to swell. This swelling puts additional pressure on nerves that control pain signals, making arthritis and joint conditions more painful than usual.
In order for seniors to greet the winter safely, it’s important to remember the following:
Check in on older adults more often during the winter months. Help your loved one out by shoveling snow or spreading bags of salt on walkways for safety.
Make sure older adults keep warm during the winter. If he or she must go outside, ensure they are dressed in proper layers of clothing. All exposed skin should be covered, including the head, face, ears, hands and feet.
Consult with your local fire department for home heating safety advice. It’s also a good idea to have a professional come in for a winter check-up of all heating units in the home. Finally, put new batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at the beginning of winter.