Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems and injuries related to the weather, including hypothermia, frostbite, and falls in ice and snow. It’s important that seniors, and those who care for them, take certain precautions at this time of year. Here’s what you need to know.

Know the Warning Signs of Hypothermia:

  • lots of shivering;
  • cold skin that is pale or ashy;
  • feeling very tired, confused and sleepy;
  • feeling weak;
  • problems walking;
    slowed breathing or heart rate.
  • Call 911 if you think you or someone else has hypothermia. 

Know the Warning Signs of frostbite:

  • skin that’s white or ashy (for people with darker skin) or grayish-yellow;
  • skin that feels hard or waxy;
  • numbness.
  • If you think you or someone else has frostbite, call for medical help immediately.
  • A person with frostbite may also have hypothermia, so check for those symptoms, too.

Stay Indoors

When it’s very cold outside, especially if it’s also very windy. Keep indoor temperatures at above 18°C. If you have to go outside, don’t stay out for very long, and go indoors if you start shivering.

Stay Dry

Wet clothing chills your body quickly

Wear Layers

Wearing two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Always wear layers, as well as:

  • a hat
  • gloves or mittens (mittens are warmer)
  • a coat and boots
  • a scarf to cover your mouth and nose and protect your lungs from cold air

Injury While Shoveling Snow

When it’s cold, your heart works extra hard to keep you warm. Working hard, such as shoveling show, may put too much strain on your heart, especially if you have heart disease. Shoveling can also be dangerous if you have problems with balance, or “thin bones” (osteoporosis). Ask Your Healthcare Provider If It’s Safe for you to shovel snow or do other hard work in the cold.


It is easy to slip and fall in the winter, especially in icy and snowy conditions.

  • Carefully Shovel Steps & Walkways to your home or hire someone to shovel for you. Do not walk on icy or snowy sidewalks; look for sidewalks that are dry and have been cleared.
  • Wear Boots with Non-Skid Soles so you’re less likely to slip when you walk.
  • If You Use a Cane, Replace the Rubber Tip Before it is Worn Smooth. You might also buy an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane to help keep you from slipping when you walk. These can be purchased at a medical supply store.

Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Burning wood, natural gas, kerosene and other fuels produces carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell. Unless fireplaces, wood and gas stoves and gas appliances are properly vented, cleaned, and used, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. These and other appliances, such as kerosene and electric heaters, can also be fire hazards.

  • Call an Inspector. Have chimneys and flues inspected yearly and cleaned when necessary. (Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or look up “chimney cleaning” for your area.)
  • Open a Window. Just a crack will do – when using a kerosene stove.
  • Use Smoke Detectors. Put a smoke detector and battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in areas where you use fireplaces, wood stoves, or kerosene heaters.
  • Be Careful With Space Heaters. Make sure space heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that might catch fire, such as curtains, bedding and furniture.
  • Keep a Fire Extinguisher that can be used for a variety of types of fires, including chemical fires, in areas where you use fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters.
  • Never Try to Heat Your home Using a Gas Stove. Charcoal grill, or other stove not made for home heating.

Accidents While Driving

Adults 65 and older are involved in more car accidents per mile driven than those in nearly all other age groups. Because winter driving can be more hazardous you should:

  • Have your Car ‘Winterized’ before the bad weather hits. This means having the antifreeze, tires, and windshield wipers checked and changed if necessary.
  • Take a Cell Phone with you when driving in bad weather. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to arrive, so they can call for help if you’re late.
  • Do Not Drive on Icy Roads, overpasses, or bridges if possible; look for another route.
  • Stock your Car With Basic Emergency Supplies, such as:
    • a first aid kit
    • blankets
    • extra warm clothes
    • booster cables
    • a windshield scraper
    • a shovel
    • rock salt, a bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow in case your wheels get stuck)
    • a container of water and canned or dried foods and can opener
    • a flashlight