Buuurrrr…….How Seniors Can Thrive As It Gets Cold Outside
October 25, 2022
How Does Cold Weather Affect the Elderly?
As the temperatures in certain areas of the country drop, the risk of injury and health complications among older adults is expected to rise. Winter weather and its effects can exacerbate common problems faced by seniors. Snow and ice, for example, can increase the likelihood of falling, and changes in pressure caused by cold fronts can worsen joint pain.
Physical therapy, however, can help reduce some of the risks wintry weather may pose for older adults. Wondering how physical therapy can assist you or an older loved one in staying safe while still enjoying the winter? Read on for our best winter safety tips!
Ice is known to help reduce aches and pains — except for when it’s on the ground. Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Americans. According to the CDC, more than one in four people aged 65+ falls each year. As our bodies age, we tend to lose stability, flexibility and balance, putting those individuals at a higher risk of falling.
Falling, however, is not an inevitable result of aging and cold weather. Through individualized routines, balance exercises and regular movement, physical therapy has been shown to improve coordination, build confidence and boost overall health. Working with physical therapists to regain stability and strength can help prevent future falls or injury.
Remain Active Indoors
While sitting by the fireplace all season long sounds ideal, being sedentary can lead to a variety of physical health issues, such as pain, weight gain and muscle loss. Here are some great ways to remain active inside your home:
- Stretching is a fantastic way to improve posture and keep blood flowing. PTs recommend simple and effective stretches throughout the day to keep you energized and pain-free.
- Equipment-free workouts, such as yoga or body weight exercises, can be done anywhere and eliminate the need for pricey workout gear.
- Deskercise, or exercises you can do while sitting, gets your muscles moving on those days when the fireplace is truly too enjoyable to abandon.
You don’t have to be a psychic to feel a cold front coming. In lower temperatures, our muscles contract and our joints get tighter, which can cause aches throughout our bodies. Those with chronic health problems, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, may be especially prone to feeling these effects in winter months.
Whether you suffer from general bodily pain or a chronic condition, physical therapy can help in providing long-term relief. It’s been found that those who exercise have an improved ability to manage pain as compared to those who do not engage in physical activity. Additionally, research shows that physical therapy reduces the need for alternative pain management treatments, like opioid prescriptions, and costly medical services like imaging and ER visits.
Promote Mental Health and Independence
Despite its name, the positive impacts of physical therapy are not limited solely to physical health. Physical therapy plays a vital role in helping patients regain independence and get back to feeling like themselves. This is especially true for senior patients, who may be frustrated by the impacts of aging.
PTs collaborate with patients to set and help them achieve their individualized goals, thus helping boost their self-esteem and improve their overall quality of life. Education is equally as important as exercise. Physical therapists provide patients and families with the knowledge necessary to maintain progress gained and empower patients to take charge of their recovery.
A focus on mental health is always important in winter months, as social isolation among older adults can increase. It is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to physical activity, an established routine and frequent interaction with others can greatly benefit the mental and physical health of seniors.