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How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

Every winter, thousands of seniors injure themselves while shoveling snow, with slips, falls, hypothermia, frostbite, and muscle strain the usual causes. 

Rather than risk injury, many seniors prefer to hire someone—or ask a friend or neighbor—to shovel them out.  Others avoid risk by installing a heated driveway or using snow-melting mats on outdoor surfaces.  For those of you who are healthy enough and have the inclination to shovel your own snow, it’s important to make sure that you use a proper snow shovel.  It can make the difference for a safe and efficient outcome.    

Here are some tips for choosing the best snow shovel for seniors:

1. Look for a lightweight shovel

Look for a smaller, lighter shovel that will put less strain on your back and heart while you're shoveling. Plastic blades are lighter than metal, and snow doesn’t stick to plastic the way it does to metal. To keep the plastic from becoming brittle and breaking over time, make sure to store your shovel indoors and away from the cold, heat, and light.

2. Consider the blade shape

A flat-bladed shovel is best for chopping out deep layers of snow one layer at a time while a rounded blade is better for both pushing and lifting snow. As much as possible, you should stick to pushing snow rather than lifting it in order to reduce strain. However, sometimes you might need a flat blade, so it can be a good idea to have both.    

3. Test the shovel before purchase

You need to feel a snow shovel in your hands and go through the motions of shoveling snow in order to know if it's light, easy to maneuver, and the right length for you. You should also test the diameter of the handle, since it will affect your grip.  And, if the handle is wooden, be sure that it is smooth and of high quality so that it doesn’t cause splinters.

4. Get an ergonomic handle

An ergonomically designed handle (with a sharp curve) greatly reduces the number of times you need to bend down while shoveling snow. This curve might make it harder to lift heavy loads of snow, but lifting is something seniors should avoid, at any rate. 

5. Consider a non-traditional shovel

Newer snow-shovel models are designed with innovations such as double handles (to maximize leverage) and wheeled handles (to help you shovel faster). You can also find "electric snow shovels," which work like miniature snow blowers. Try out these new models for comfort and efficacy—you may find something that’s just right.

6. Invest in a few accessories

A strong-bristled push broom will push off light dustings of snow while a long-handled scraper tool can help you chip away ice without squatting. You should also use a little sand and de-icer to create traction and prevent black ice formation after shoveling is complete.

7. Keep a compact shovel in your car

You should keep a small plastic shovel with a foldable handle in your car in case of an emergency. Getting stuck in a snow drift while away from home (and away from your snow shovels) is a very real danger. 

Shoveling snow can put a lot of strain on your back and heart. But seniors can reduce the risk of injury by following these tips for choosing the right snow shovel.

A Reality Check for Seniors Living Alone in Wintertime

A Reality Check for Seniors Living Alone in Wintertime

A Reality Check for Seniors Living Alone in Wintertime

With modern technologies at their disposal, more awareness of smart, healthy lifestyle practices, and a wider range of connectivity, seniors have developed into a stronger, more independent generation than history has ever seen before.

Of course, as a senior living on your own, there are certain situations you need to keep on top of, winter being one of them. Use this safety checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for the cold season so you can rest easy during those winter months.                                                                                    

1. Check all heating units before the first frost of the season

As the weather gets colder you’re going to need to heat your home. Whether you use a fireplace, gas heating, or electric units, it’s important to thoroughly check these systems before the winter begins. Make sure to do the following:

  • Run the heating elements to be certain everything is working properly
  • Check that nothing is broken or needs replacing
  • Clean the flue and other chimney parts that might contain residue from last year
  • Stock up on fuel, batteries, and wood so you don’t run out when you need them the most

2. Install alarms

In winter, the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning increases.  At the beginning of the season make sure that your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly,

Have fully-charged batteries, and are loud enough to hear. Obviously, if you don’t already have alarms and detectors, get them installed right away.  

Another alarm system you can install is a panic button. This is a device that sends an alert to the local police, ambulatory service, or specified care giver in the event that you fall or suffer a debilitating health issue.

3. Be prepared

When a storm hits it’s too late to think about what you might need around the house. Have your home fully stocked in case you can’t leave for a few days. Follow this checklist:

  • Stock up on food and supplies such as batteries, medications, canned goods, bottled water, and food items that won’t go bad for a few weeks. And remember, if the power goes out, your electric can opener won’t work. Keep this in mind while shopping
  • Keep a few strong flashlights around the house in case the power goes out. Make sure your flashlights have fresh batteries
  • Have medical equipment on hand such as a first aid kit, extra oxygen, medical cards, and a spare pair of eyeglasses

4. Stay healthy

Here are some tips:

  • Exercise daily. There are several indoor exercises you can do to keep your heart pumping and your blood flowing. Moving around frequently will also help keep you warm
  • Eat properly. A balanced diet will ensure that your body can function properly even during these physically challenging months. Eat frequent smaller meals rather than fewer larger meals, consume proteins, healthy carbs and fats, and limit your sugar intake. Boost your Vitamin D intake with fortified milk, healthy grains, and fish
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the winter. These inhibit your body’s temperature regulation
  • Drink lots of water. And if you drink tea, indulge.  It will help you stay warm

5. Stay in touch

The winter can be a lonely and isolating time for people who live alone. Avoid this dangerous psychological trigger by arranging for friends and family to drop by periodically, planning phone calls with your kids, and getting out to be among people.

6. Keep warm

Seniors have a harder time staying warm in the winter than do younger people. Remember to dress in layers, set the thermostat properly, and sleep with a heavy quilt and socks.

7. Keep walkways clear

Slips are the major cause of injury to seniors in winter.  Have someone spread salt, sand, or other anti-slip materials on the walkway of your home as soon as possible after it snows or rains.  Time is of the essence in order to prevent snow and ice buildup.

8. Avoid car trouble

If you have a car and a driver’s license, make sure the vehicle is ready for winter weather.

  • Take your car in for a checkup to make certain everything is running properly—tires, brakes, air conditioning/heating, etc.
  • Refill fluids including windshield wiper, brake, oil, and coolant
  • Keep an ice scraper and a folding plastic snow shovel in the car
  • Update your AAA membership in case of an emergency on the road. You don’t want to get stuck outdoors in winter
  • Listen to travel advisories on the radio before leaving the house
  • Never leave a car running in a garage or other enclosed space, as this creates a serious carbon monoxide hazard

If you keep these tips in mind, you and your home will be ready for winter in plenty of time before the cold weather sets in. 

8 Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

8 Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

8 Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

When outdoor temperatures plummet and snow and ice cover the ground, conditions are dangerous for everyone, but it is seniors who suffer the most each winter from hypothermia, frostbite, slip-and-fall incidents, and other accidents.

By better understanding wintertime dangers, seniors can better prepare and minimize the risks. Here are 8 winter safety tips for seniors that will help them safely navigate wintry conditions:

  1. Be alert for hypothermia: Body temperatures can sink to dangerously low levels in short space of time in sub-freezing weather. Plus, it is easy to lose track of how long you have been outside. If your skin feels very cold and looks a bit pale, and if you feel extremely exhausted/disoriented and notice your breathing and/or heart rate is slowing, get indoors as soon as possible.

  2. Dress for conditions: Always dress in layers for cold weather, with at least two thin, warm layers under a thick sweater/coat. Be sure to wear warm socks, gloves/mittens, a scarf, and a winter hat as well. Even if going outside for only a brief trip, you should put on all winter clothing — a slip and fall, accidentally locking yourself outside, or distraction with unplanned tasks could keep you outside longer than expected.

  3. Keep your clothing dry: Avoid snow contact with anything but the bottom of your shoes/boots as much as possible. Wet clothing will chill your body faster, and snow may melt and dampen coats, gloves, and pants. Especially avoid touching or getting sprayed/splashed by puddles of water or slush.

  4. Guard against frostbite: Those with heart conditions are especially vulnerable to frostbite since it mostly affects those parts of the body furthest from the heart (in terms of blood circulation), such as fingers, toes, nose, and ears. If skin looks discolored or feels numb, immediately go inside and run it under mildly warm water. Frostbite not only can damage your skin but can kill tissues all the way to the bone in extreme cases, so guard against it by covering all parts of your body with warm clothing. Ear muffs and ski masks should even be worn in extreme conditions.

  5. Be cautious with snow shoveling: Those with heart conditions should not risk shoveling snow since it puts a heavy strain on the heart. Those with osteoporosis or trouble keeping their balance should also steer clear of it. But even if you are able to shovel, be careful not to over-exert, take numerous short breaks, go inside to warm up as needed, and before heading outside, eat a hot breakfast and do some basic stretching to loosen up.

  6. Maintain an ice and snow-free path: Anywhere you or others will be stepping outside around the house, keep clear of ice/snow as consistently as possible. Snow removal, deicing, and anti-icing (brine applied before a storm) can all help. A heated driveway and/or snow-melting mats can keep the path clear with the least effort and without damaging your pavements.

  7. Maximize traction every way you can: The better the traction, the less chance of slips and falls. Wear slip-resistant, high-traction shoes or boots, put down sand on pavements if necessary to improve traction, and consider (if applicable) getting a can attachment that boosts the traction on the cane-tip.

  8. Be prepared with smoke/carbon monoxide detectors: With wood/gas burning fireplaces, base-board heating systems, and space heaters in high use during winter, fire hazards significantly increase. Carbon monoxide can also potentially be released should heaters or stoves malfunction. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in each inhabited room of the house and be sure to test the batteries just before winter begins. Also, have chimneys/flues inspected every year and cleaned as needed. Finally, keep space heaters three or more feet away from anything flammable at all times.

As winter's snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures draw closer, seniors especially should consciously prepare themselves and their home (both indoors and out) for the season. Following a few basic winter safety tips can often prevent injuries and even fatalities, so it is wise to take wintertime dangers seriously.