Tips for elders in cold weather

By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist
For the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA), I am not only a part-time long-term care ombudsman, advocating for residents at Pine Ridge, a 24-hour extended care home, and BeeHive, an assisted living residence. I also am an aging and disability resource specialist and Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) and State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor. Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.
Older adults have an elevated risk for cold-related death, particularly those older than age 75, because of less body fat, a slower metabolism and less efficient circulation. These factors can be made worse by specific medications and medical conditions. Hypothermia can occur indoors, so a thermostat should not be set lower than 65 degrees. People older than age 75 should also be warmly dressed indoors and outside.
Elders are also prone to becoming dehydrated because they consume less water, cold and dry air leads to moisture loss, and people feel less thirsty in the winter. Caregivers should monitor water intake of an elder. Dehydration symptoms include infrequent urination, dark urine, dizziness and confusion.
Sidewalks, porches and driveways with slick ice and snow should be shoveled and salted. Mountain Express Transit offers snow removal through a contract with SJBAAA.
Stability outside is aided by well-fitted shoes with nonslip soles and new tips or treads on canes and walkers.
Emergency or disaster kits are important and should include three gallons of water per day for several days as well as nonperishable food. Ensure safety precautions are taken when using electric blankets and space heaters, especially a gas-powered heater or generator. In the latter case, a carbon monoxide detector should be functional.
SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call me at 264-0501, ext. 1 or send an email to

This story was posted on January 21, 2020.