Adventures in Retirement – Being prepared for winter’s senior challenges

Written by Bill Leavitt. Posted in Senior Living

Published on December 10, 2019 with No Comments

Winter can be a beautiful season, but there are dangers, especially for seniors, when spending time outside in our Midwestern winter climate.  Icy roads, stairs and sidewalks can be special hazards.  Also, seniors are especially susceptible to bitter cold temperatures.  Working outside, such as shoveling snow, can provide additional health hazards.  Even driving your car requires special care during the winter months.

Boots, with good traction, are a good idea when there is a possibility of walking on icy surfaces.  Even better, there are traction devices that fit over your shoes or boots that provide terrific traction.  I use some elastic shoe covers with wire cleats that pull over your shoes. They are about $10-20 and are well worth the cost.

If you don’t use special boots or traction devices, make sure you walk slowly with your weight over your feet, or shuffle like a penguin.  Keep your hands out of your pockets, as your arms will help you balance on slippery surfaces.

Always make sure you are properly dressed for the weather.  Hypothermia is especially dangerous for seniors.  You should have various thicknesses of coats, gloves and hats available for each level of cold temperatures.  For instance, a medium-weight jacket may be okay for temperatures in the 20s, but not for temperatures around zero.

When the temperature is in the minus figures, I usually wear long-underwear, a heavy coat and heavy gloves.  There are several types of long-underwear varying from lightweight to thermal.  You might even want to buy some chemical hand- or foot-warmers to use in your shoes or gloves.  Most of these one-use packets are good for eight or more hours.  There are even body-warmers that you can place under your outer garments (but not against your skin).

Shoveling snow or doing other outdoor work can be dangerous for seniors.  Take a break if you are sweating or if you get short of breath.  Better yet, hire a neighbor or grandchild to help you out.

Driving a car can result in other kinds of winter dangers.  Learn how to control a skid, and make sure you have good tires.  Also, keep a heavy coat and gloves or blanket and hand-warmers in your car in case of a breakdown.

Above all, use some common sense when the weather gets cold and snowy.  Most winter problems come from being unprepared for conditions or thinking you don’t need to dress for severe conditions if you are going to be in your car or just going for a short walk.  Winter doesn’t have to be unpleasant if you take the proper precautions.

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About Bill Leavitt

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Bill Leavitt is a technical writer from Valparaiso. After retiring from a large corporation in Chicago, he did technical writing consulting for many companies. He currently teaches part-time at Purdue University Calumet. You can order Leavitt’s book, “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure,” by sending $16.65 (includes shipping and sales tax) made payable to Write On Technical Writing, Inc., P.O. Box 132,Valparaiso, IN 46384-0132. Or, visit for more information.

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