Winter weather challenges seniors |

Winter weather challenges seniors

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunTony Ryzak walks to the Dial-A-Ride bus outside the Truckee Senior Center Wednesday afternoon. Ryzak, 87, uses the bus to get to the Senior Center for lunch during the winter.

High Sierra weather conditions pose health risks for seniors and create added challenges during the winter months.

And recent bitter cold temperatures don’t help. Mobility in the mountains is one of the toughest challenges seniors face this time of year, said Melanie Kauffman, executive director of Sierra Senior Services.

Ice-slicked sidewalks and snow-covered roads can be dangerous for seniors because of the risks of falling and injuring themselves, Kauffman said. Last year the number of injuries that occurred from seniors falling in the area increased during the winter, she said.

“With inclement weather that is very cold, their (seniors’) body temperature and health conditions can be similar to an infant,” Kauffman said.

The first and foremost priority for seniors is to keep warm, she said.

Preparedness is key for seniors, said Bronwyn Calkins, director of Tahoe Forest Home Health. Home Health provides services to about 45 seniors in the area, most of whom are homebound, Calkins said.

Seniors should have emergency supplies on hand, such as extra blankets, batteries, food, water, and medications. In the event of a powerful winter storm, seniors need to make sure they have an alternative source of heat.

Also, seniors should be alert and aware of their surroundings when walking to their cars and while holiday shopping, Kauffman said.

Though seniors are wise to stay indoors to avoid winter conditions, they are encouraged to interact with others to keep from feeling isolated and depressed, especially around the holidays, Kauffman said.

“Socialization is critical for healthy aging,” she said.

Between 15 and 20 percent of older adults deal with minor depression. Many doctors incorrectly assume depression is a part of aging, and seniors don’t receive treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Socializing among family and friends can reduce and even prevent depression, Kauffman said. The senior center has special holiday activities scheduled almost every other day in December, she said.

For homebound seniors, “if someone is feeling low around the holidays” Home Health sends a social worker out to talk with them, Calkins said. Home Health now has a psychological nurse on staff to assist with counseling. There haven’t been any house calls made yet this year, she said.

“Sierra Senior Services is a great strength” with organized activities and meals and is a great place for seniors, Calkins said.

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