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Winter Safety for Older Adults
Image shows a woman helping an older woman with a walker across a snowy street.

For a variety of reasons, older Ohioans may have a harder time adjusting to temperature extremes and outdoor conditions than they did when they were younger. Winter weather can include snow, ice, and cold temperatures, along with strong winds, heavy rains, flooding, and more.

The Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) partner each year to help older Ohioans prepare themselves and their homes for another Ohio winter. 

Be Prepared, Be Safe, Be Healthy

Have a Plan and Make a Kit

Have a plan that will allow you to remain in place for at least three days in case you are unable to safely leave your home due to weather conditions or other emergencies.

Items to put in an emergency kit should include:

  • A battery-operated radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries;
  • A loud horn, whistle, or bell to signal for help;
  • Food you can open and prepare easily without electriciy;
  • One gallon of water per person, per day;
  • Extra blankets; and
  • A first-aid kit.

Pack a Bug-Out Bag

Have a bag packed with essential supplies in case you need to leave your home. A kit for leaving your home can fit into a backpack or duffel bag and should include:

  • A radio, flashlight, and batteries;
  • Travel-size toiletries;
  • Baby wipes;
  • A multipurpose tool with a knife and can opener;
  • Extra clothing and shoes; and
  • Light rain gear.

Special Considerations for Older Adults

Older adults may want to consider other steps to ensure you have what you need in an emergency, such as:

  • Add spare glasses and hearing aid batteries to your emergency kits;
  • Include a backup supply of medications you take (ask your pharmacist for advice on safe storage) and copies of your prescriptions in your kits;
  • Keep ice packs in the freezer and a soft-sided cooler near your kits for medications that need to be kept cool;
  • Make sure your assistive equipment, like canes, walkers, oxygen tanks, etc., are easy to locate in an emergency;
  • Have non-powered options for equipment that will not work without electricity;
  • Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue workers how to move you or help you move safely and quickly; and
  • Ask a reliable family member, friend or neighbor to visit or call you in an emergency to make sure you are okay, and agree on a plan for what they should do if they are unable to reach you or find you needing help.

Prevent Falls

In addition, take special care during wintry conditions to prevent falls:

  • Wear boots and shoes that fit properly and have soles with good traction;
  • Slow down and give yourself extra time to get where you’re going;
  • Make sure steps leading into your home have sturdy handrails that can support you if you slip;
  • Watch for slippery surfaces ahead of you – keep your head up and use your eyes to look down;
  • Don’t try to walk in more than an inch of snow – deeper accumulations can cause you to trip;
  • Ask your health care provider about indoor exercises that can help you build and maintain balance, strength, and stamina when you can’t venture out;
  • Watch for tripping hazards in your home, such as blankets and cords;
  • Invest in extra lamps and brighter lights for inside and outside walkways and stairs; and
  • When in doubt, ask for help.

Find more falls prevention tips and resources.

Prevent Flu and COVID-19

Staying Connected

Hazardous weather coupled with a pandemic may lead many Ohioans to limit their time outside their home or with other people this winter. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can affect their physical and emotional health. The Ohio Department of Aging's Staying Connected Service provides a free, daily check-in call for any Ohioan age 60 or older. In addition to verifying the individual is okay, the system also lets them connect to senior services and request a friendly chat.

Get Help

Your area agency on aging can help connect older adults and their families with services, supports, and resources to help them remain safely in their homes and communities. Call 1-866-243-5678 to contact the agency serving your community.