Winter weather is just around the corner in New York City, and that means now is the best time to ensure your home is prepared for what meteorologists predict to be another particularly cold season.
Winter Weather and the Elderly
Cold weather can be a hazard at any age, but the risk is particularly serious for older adults, whose bodies typically generate less body heat and regain heat at a slower rate than younger people. Additionally, medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid complications and certain medications can make it harder the body to properly regulate its heat.
These risk factors, combined with the tendency for older adults to spend much of the winter season indoors, mean that having a warm, winter-ready apartment is critical to safety.
Many New Yorkers are tempted to lower or turn off their heat during the day to save on energy costs, however, older adults should resist the temptation to turn their thermostats below 68 degrees at any time of day – it’s simply too easy to forget to turn the heat back on before the apartment becomes dangerously cold.
Rather than constantly toying with your apartment’s heating controls, an easier way to manage energy costs is to close off unused rooms of the apartment by shutting doors and blocking drafts with specially built door sweeps that attach to the bottom of a door. While you can also block drafts by placing rolled towels under doors, this practice is discouraged as the towels pose a significant trip and fall hazard.
If you live in an apartment that does not have an independent thermostat, buying and installing a simple wall thermometer can go a long way towards helping you keep track of your apartment’s climate. If you find the temperature of your apartment is consistently too cold, check out our NYC tenant’s guide to heat and hot water to learn how you can ensure your building is kept at an appropriate temperature.
Space Heaters and Other Solutions
It is quite common for apartment-dwellers to turn to electric space heaters and blankets when temperatures begin to dip. While these devices can quickly heat up a room, most elder care experts strongly discourage their use because they pose severe fire hazards.
Rather than using space heaters or electric blankets, it is far safer to simply wear a few extra layers while at home. By adding a pair of thermal leggings (long johns), a thermal undershirt and a pair of thicker cotton socks, seniors can preserve their body heat and feel much more comfortable without increasing the risk of fire or raising their energy bills.
If you do choose to use a space heater, there are some steps you must take to lower the chance of fire:
- Only use space heaters in good working order with no damage to the cable.
- Never run power cables under rugs as they might become damaged over time and cast sparks.
- Make sure space heaters are at least three feet away from walls, furniture or any other potentially flammable object.
- Periodically check the space heater, power cable and the wall plug to make sure they are not hot to the touch. Discontinue use if these parts are warm to the touch.
- NEVER leave a space heater or electric blanket running while sleeping.
- Make sure your smoke detector and Carbon Dioxide detectors are in good working order.
While cold weather is the primary concern in most New York City apartments, some older adults might experience discomfort due to a lack of moisture in the air – this is caused by colder air generally carrying less water vapor than during warmer months.
If you or a loved one experience dryer, itchier skin than normal, nosebleeds, a persistent cough, chapped lips or feel like your throat and nose are unusually dry, purchasing a humidifier and increasing your daily water intake can significantly help alleviate these problems.
SelectCare hopes you found this guide useful. Many families first consider home health care for their loved ones during the winter months, when keeping up with day-to-day errands becomes more challenging and the run up to the holiday season makes everyone feel like they’re stretched just a little too thin.