7 Winter Home Safety Tips for Seniors

While the winter can be a beautiful time of the year with snow and scenic sights, it can also be a dangerous time for seniors. Here are 7 ways you can ensure a senior is safe and warm at home.

Help Seniors to Stay Safe & Warm During the Winter…

Help Seniors to Stay Safe & Warm During the Winter Months

For some seniors staying at home, their week-to-week agendas may involve doctor’s visits, maintaining the home, and other errands around town. Seniors living at home may need special attention during the winter months to ensure there are no safety hazards and that they’re prepared for unforeseen events.

1. Stay Warm and Prevent Hypothermia

Some seniors may want to turn down the heat in their homes to reduce their energy bill, but this can be hazardous to their health. Their bodies are not as capable of regulating heat as younger peoples’ bodies; therefore, it’s important to help them realize the importance of staying warm during the winter.

What this looks like is ensuring that they are dressing warmly while around the house as well as outdoors. Wearing sweaters, hoodies, thermals, thicker socks, and a hat if necessary can help. If they’re going to be working outdoors, they need to make sure they’re not staying for too long. The National Institutes of Health defines hypothermia as “having a core body temperature below 95 degrees.” Generations Senior Living recommends keeping their home at a minimum of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If a senior has a fireplace or space heater and would like to use those as well, make sure they’re safe to use, and the senior understands proper operation. If monetary heating assistance is needed, they may be able to qualify for government assistance or enlist the help of relatives or friends.


2. Avoid Home Fires

The American Red Cross reports that home fires are most prevalent during December and January. It may be easier for seniors to forget that they’ve left their stove on or a space heating. Try to remind and check-in with them when possible. If you walk into their home, do you hear any beeping? If so, their smoke detectors may be in need of new batteries or complete replacement.

There are several smart ways seniors can help reduce the risk of kitchen fires. Seniors should learn how to use the timer on their stoves, set a reminder on their phone, or even consider purchasing an automatic shut-off device like the Fire Avert Safety Device. If a senior uses a fireplace for additional heat, be sure to keep up maintenance and have it checked by a professional if necessary.


3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

As a colorless, odorless gas, we can’t detect carbon monoxide on our own; that’s why it’s essential to ensure seniors have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. You can purchase these as standalone devices or as part of a full home security system. For placement, it’s recommended to install a carbon monoxide detector in the garage and in each bedroom.

Remembering to turn off the car when parking in the garage, cutting off the stove, and space heaters at the appropriate times are important for keeping seniors and their home safe.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

4. Reduce the Chance of Falls and Injuries

With winter comes cold weather and slippery surfaces that can pose a challenge for seniors with mobility or health issues like arthritis. You can reduce the chance of falls by making sure their home is optimized for safety. This means checking rugs for tripping hazards, making sure that they have non-slip shoes, and even updating bathrooms and living areas to make getting around easier and safer. Falls tend to happen most in bathrooms — this can be one place to start checking for any hazards and overall accessibility.


5. Prepare for Inclement Weather & Power Outages

We can predict the weather, but we can’t be certain of weather events. That’s why preparation is key. Does the elderly individual have any flashlights, lanterns, water, food, a radio, portable battery chargers, and other items in the event of a power outage? Be sure to stock up on those things for them so that they can be more prepared. We recommend checking in on seniors when severe weather strikes or even inviting them to stay with you or a friend.

House in the snow

6. Check Their Vehicles

For active seniors who are still driving, make it a routine to keep their vehicles checked and in proper maintenance. How are the tires? Do they need new windshield wipers? How are the oil and antifreeze levels? Another device that will come in handy is a cell phone car charger. Additionally, having a medical alert system with built-in GPS monitoring and fall detection would be beneficial. There are a number of medical alert pendants and wristlets available through providers.

Car parked in driveway

7. Keep the Wintertime Blues at Bay

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the elderly are at a greater risk for developing depression.” Sometimes seniors living at home alone don’t have relatives or friends stopping by on a regular basis, and this can lead to loneliness creeping in and spurring on depression. To help a senior avoid depression during the winter months, check in with him or her, even if it’s by phone, on a regular basis. If possible, stop by to talk and offer a helping hand. It really is amazing how a little love and attention can strengthen and warm the heart – even on the coldest winter days and nights.

Elderly man smiling


Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.