Many of us are able to continue with our daily activities and responsibilities, with minimal accommodations, despite the dreary winter weather. For aging loved ones and elderly neighbors, however, simple tasks can become overwhelming and require more work and effort when winter weather hits.
“Things can get bad quickly for an older adult when we have extreme weather conditions, especially in the wintertime” says Maxine Horn, Information Referral Specialist for AgeWell Pittsburgh at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. “A simple check-in takes just a few minutes and can literally be a lifesaver in some cases.”
Maxine operates the AgeWell Pittsburgh hotline and works with older adults and adult children to help them find solutions for the challenges that are often associated with aging. She suggests there are several ways adult children or neighbors can help ensure older adults are safe this winter, especially as temperatures dip and snow piles up.
- Make sure their living space has heat — “A lack of heat in the wintertime can be deadly for anyone, but older adults are at an increased risk for hypothermia and other complications because of changes in blood circulation, certain medications or chronic health conditions,” Maxine says. Check that the water heater, furnace and thermostat are working and that the temperature is consistently kept above 65 degrees to prevent hypothermia. Click here for a list of local warming shelters, or call AgeWell Pittsburgh if a senior lacks resources or the ability to maintain adequate heat in the home.
- Ensure there is adequate, nutritious food — It never hurts to bring by some extra groceries or a few homemade meals for a loved one or neighbor, but also make sure there is at least a few days worth supply of food, water and medications on hand in case of severe weather conditions. If you know of an older adult in need of continuous food assistance or emergency food, call AgeWell Pittsburgh or reach out to the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.
- Encourage older adults to continue socializing — Low temperatures, frigid winds and inches of snow would drive anyone to hibernation, but it’s especially important for older adults to continue socializing. Winter is a great time to try an indoor exercise class, or even sign up for the new Memory Training Program at JF&CS. If transportation is an issue, AgeWell Rides offers free rides to help older adults stay connected in the community.
- Offer to walk or feed pets — Pets can be wonderful companions to older adults, but they also require constant care and attention that can be difficult to provide when extreme winter weather hits. Offer to take pets for a walk, clear a space for outdoor business and make sure there is enough food for Fido.
- Salt and/or shovel walkways and driveways — Simply salting and shoveling driveways and walkways can tremendously help an older adult and prevent serious injuries from a slip and fall. Services through Snow Angels or the United Way can also help provide shoveling assistance to older adults on a regular basis.
“There’s no reason to feel apprehensive about a well-meaning check-in on an elderly loved one or neighbor,” Maxine says. “Be straightforward and kind, and let them know you care and that you want to make sure they’re okay.”
Through the AgeWell Pittsburgh collaboration of JF&CS, the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) and the Jewish Community Center (JCC), we provide a network of services, programs and information on issues related to aging. One call to the AgeWell Pittsburgh information and referral line at JF&CS puts seniors and adult children in contact with a knowledgeable specialist who is committed to connecting callers to the services and support they need – from AgeWell Pittsburgh partner agencies or through other community resources. Whether callers have specific questions, or just don’t know where to turn, the AgeWell Pittsburgh information and referral specialist helps to identify needs and provide answers and support. Together, with the funding of the United Way of Allegheny County, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and other funders and donors, AgeWell Pittsburgh works to keep our community’s seniors healthy and independent for as long as possible.
At JF&CS, we approach aging from all perspectives in order to give families options instead of ultimatums. Find out more by visiting our website at www.jfcspgh.org or by calling the AgeWell Pittsburgh hotline at 1-877-243-1530, toll-free, or call 412-422-0400.