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Winter for older adults

Winter preparedness and winter activities for older adults in Calgary

Download the winter guide

Winter can be a difficult time for some older adults, especially those facing long-term loneliness and social isolation issues. Long winters, cold temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles can create icy conditions that add to the challenges of long-term seasonal impacts for older adults.

Learning to approach winter by preparing for the cold and preventing falls can help during this time. Physical activity and social connection are also part of healthy aging throughout seasonal changes.

Below, find ways to get started, community stories and winter myth busting.

Myth busting

In addition to the snowflakes, some myths about winter are floating around this time of year. Here are some of the most common myths:

Myth: Older adults just dislike the cold.

Did you know that our muscle mass falls as we age and it becomes physiologically harder to stay warm?

Myth: The cold makes you sick. Going outside in winter puts you at risk of getting sick.

The common cold is caught from the spread of viruses, not from the weather outdoors. Since cold temperatures can keep more people sedentary and indoors, viruses can spread more easily. (Dressing for cold temperatures is always important for overall health).  

Myth: Winter is dull and boring because there’s nothing to do.

There are many outdoor and indoor activities you can take part in during the winter months! Check out Winter in Calgary.

Myth: Drinking coffee or alcohol will warm me up.

Caffeine and alcohol may speed up heat loss. They cause the blood vessels close to your skin to dilate, so although you might appear warmer, heat is taken away from your body’s core, which can cause your body temperature to drop rapidly. Try drinking warm water or a non-alcoholic/non-caffeinated beverage instead!

Myth: Sunscreen does not need to be worn in the winter.

You are exposed to more of the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays during the winter because the earth is closer to the sun during the winter. Also, snow and ice can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays onto your skin. Applying sunscreen daily is recommended, year-round. 

Myth: If other people aren’t cold, I won’t be cold either.

Physiological differences and acclimatization can all impact whether a person feels cold, individually.

Getting prepared

Winter conditions can make it harder for older adults to continue their normal routines, which can contribute to social isolation. Use these resources to learn more about social isolation and the role we can all play in staying connected whatever the weather! 

Understanding why the cold affects older adults can help us understand its impact and what to do about it. How cold affects older people (a video from AGE UK) explains this well.

How to dress for winter

To prevent illness and frostbite, wear proper winter clothing, including layers, a hat, mittens, and warm and waterproof footwear. It’s important to dress based on your experience and how cold you feel, as cold affects older adults differently.

Make a plan

Making an emergency action plan and 72-hour kit for just-in-case scenarios (disasters, emergencies, missing seniors) can provide added peace of mind in the winter months.

Keeping mentally healthy

Winter conditions and darkness can be challenging. Community support and taking part in activities can help bring joy in the winter months. Resources for counselling and crisis support are available.

Getting around in winter

Getting around in winter can be challenging for everyone, whether they are walking, wheeling, driving or taking public transit.  Confidence that sidewalks and pathways will be free from snow and ice along their journey can be the difference between older adults going out or not. 

Winter driving

It’s important to be prepared when driving in the winter. This includes winterizing and keeping your vehicle topped up, slowing down and ensuring you are visible to others, and having an emergency car kit. Alternative modes of transportation are available if you do not feel comfortable driving in the winter.

Winter transit

Transit can be a great alternative if you would prefer not to drive in the winter. To ensure a smooth trip, stay tuned to service updates, dress appropriately for the weather, and plan for the potential of longer trip durations.

Winter walking

Winter is a beautiful time to be outside for a stroll. Stay aware, aim to walk on cleared pathways, and walk like a penguin for added stability. Equipment such as spikes and poles may help you feel more comfortable walking through snow or ice covered areas. Consider regular exercises to improve balance.

Preventing falls

Older adults may have previously fallen or experience fear of falling in the winter, which can sometimes lead to reduced activities. Falls can be prevented, and keeping sidewalks, pathways and roads clear is the shared responsibility of the City of Calgary, businesses and residents. Below are some other ways to help.

Get informed

Be active

Who’s helping with winter?

Along with personal approaches to winter, there are also ways that The City of Calgary, community organizations, friends and family help with winter.

City of Calgary


Community organizations

Friends and family