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Aging in Place: “Winter is Coming”

| Owen Barclay |

As we began thinking about doing a piece on cold weather planning, the ongoing theme from the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” kept bubbling to the surface. The show starts off with the repeated and ominous warning, “Winter is Coming,” suggesting that pretty bad things were just over the horizon. And unfortunately, as all followers of the show know, winter did come and bad things did happen. And that very foreseeable consequence raised this simple question in our minds.


A little forethought, and it’s very likely the onset of winter wouldn’t have been so concerning to the good folk of Westeros and Essos. So, taking a lesson from their lack of foresight, we have some quick planning tips that should ease your passage and that of your home through the colder weather ahead

  1. Heating the house. Seniors get cold; it has something to do with a slowing metabolism as we age. So, start by having your furnace looked over by a professional. Make sure it’s operating efficiently and safely. While you’re at it, check your windows and doors for missing insulation, cracks and openings, caulk where necessary. Set your thermostat no lower than 68 degrees to ensure that all areas of the home are adequately heated. If you’re concerned about excessive heating bills, contact your local utility for information about assistance; there’s lots of state, local, and federal money available for this purpose. Utility companies are also a great source of ideas for heat conservation ideas. For example, close all vents, put plastic on windows, and place rolled towels or blankets in front of doors to stop heat loss.

  2. Avoid heating dangers. Space heaters, fireplaces and other auxiliary sources of heat can provide added warmth, but take extra care when using this equipment. Make sure these “heat helpers” are well ventilated, placed on timers, and positioned several feet away from furniture, walls, and other flammable objects. Don’t forget to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Be sure to replace their batteries at the beginning of the heating season. One last safety measure: have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned, if necessary.

  3. Outside your house: roof gutters, sidewalks, and driveways. One of the most important things you can do is clean out your gutters and trim back overhanging tree branches. Here’s why. Rooftop clogs cause a buildup of moisture, and in subfreezing winter temperatures, that means ice. Ice buildups form what’s called an “ice dam,” which acts like a “leak factory” on your roof and gutters. Not good. Some other measures to take: Check your walkways and driveway for cracks that can fill with water in winter, freeze and cause further damage. Lay in a good supply of salt or other de-icer and fix or replace any broken snow shovels.

  4. Prepare your vehicle. This means making sure your car is equipped with emergency equipment like a first aid kit; snow scrapers, shovel, and emergency flares. Also, have on hand sand, or salt, blankets, and a car phone charger. Have your battery checked and play close attention to the condition of your tires. Consider upgrading to snow tires, which really help when driving on wet or snowy surfaces. Don’t forget to replace faulty windshield wipers and check your antifreeze. Finally, keep some water and dried or canned food on hand.

  5. Dressing for Winter. Hypothermia is a real winter weather danger. But it’s easier than ever to be well dressed for the cold. Loose-fitting and layered clothing is the best first line of defense against plunging winter temperatures. Couple that with a good hat to protect against heat loss and water-proof gloves or mittens. As you get older, your body loses heat faster, so keep all exposed skin covered.

  6. Stay in Touch with Friends and Family. Winter can be an isolating time as the cold weather tends to keep us indoors. Now is when you need to make special efforts to stay in touch with friends and family; set aside time for phone calls and schedule get-togethers for coffee, movies, etc. Also important, make sure you exercise: dress warmly and get yourself outside for a brisk walk or jog.

Winter can be full of lots of fun indoor and outdoor activities. But it can also be a challenging time. Advance planning is the key to worry-free enjoyment. As “Aging in Place” experts, we have lots of thoughts and ideas on how to do more than just cope with the cold weather ahead. Embrace the season, and don’t hesitate to give us a call at 604-259-9774 or email us at [email protected].