senior man blowing his nose on the couch

How to Reduce the Risk of Cold & Flu for Seniors

Cooler weather heralds the start of the holiday season, but it also means cold and flu season. If you care for a senior or live with someone over 65, it’s a time to be extra vigilant about cold and flu prevention. According to the CDC,  70 to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and 54 to 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 and over.

For 2020, and likely beyond, there’s a double danger: COVID-19. As with the flu, seniors are at high risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus. A vaccine will help, but it’s not likely to wipe the virus off the map anytime soon.

The pandemic has shined an even brighter spotlight on the need for people to take an active role in cold and flu prevention and also help avoid coronavirus exposure. At the most basic level, everyone should be:

  • Washing hands often
  • Avoid touching your own face, mouth and nose
  • Using hand sanitizer
  • Regularly disinfecting home and workspace surfaces
  • Wearing a mask

Caregivers and others can also help seniors fight back against the cold and flu from the inside.Our immune systems are like an interior suit of armor. The better they function, the better equipped our bodies will be to fight off disease. That’s especially important when it comes to the senior immune system.

Immunity-Boosting Tips for Caregivers and Seniors

Caregivers can take an active role in keeping themselves healthy during cold and flu season – and also help boost the immune system of seniors they care for. A healthy immune system is key to avoiding the flu and potentially serious complications.

Here are some specific immunity-boosting tips to follow:

  • Take the Shot – A quick and easy way to boost immunity (the CDC says it reduces flu risk by 40 to 60%) is with an annual flu shot and (when age-appropriate) a pneumonia shot. When the COVID-19 vaccine is ready, talk to your doctor about getting that as well.
  • Stay Hydrated – Water, hot tea, and even (low-salt) chicken soup are all great for keeping nasal passages moist (which helps keep germs out). Kidneys need water for proper function and your whole body works better when hydrated.
  • Fill Up on Nutrients – Eating a balanced diet of fresh foods rich in immune-boosting nutrients, and avoiding processed foods, too much salt, sugar, fried foods, and alcohol will help keep your body in balance and offer resistance to illness.
  • Avoid Sick People – It stands to reason that if you stay away from people who are sick, you’ll reduce your chances of catching a cold and flu. If you’re a caregiver, don’t bring your illness into someone’s home or senior living community. Stay away until you’re well.
  • Get Fresh Air & Activity – To help boost immunity, caregivers and seniors alike need to add more “up and around” time to their day. If it’s too cold to go outside, pop open a window for a short time to bring in some fresh air and sunlight, and stroll around your interior space  together. 
  • Find a Friend – Socializing isn’t just good for the soul; it also boosts the hormones that make you happy. It’s a proven fact that loneliness and isolation contribute to chronic inflammation, a key zapper of a healthy immune system.
  • Banish Stress – A little stress keeps you focused. Too much stress causes your body to flood with cortisol, which can be hard on the heart, immunity and emotional well-being. Senior yoga and stretch classes are great stress relievers.
  • Avoid Big Crowds – Especially in high cold and flu season, it’s best to avoid large gatherings, crowded malls and other places where groups of people are likely to congregate. They can be super spreaders for germs of all kinds.
  • Unplug Early – We love our computers, tablets and smartphones, but the blue light they emit can mess with a good night’s sleep. No surprise, lack of sleep can wreak havoc on an immune system. Resolve to unplug 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Crack open an actual book instead.

Here’s to a Healthier Cold & Flu Season

Seniors lucky enough to live at Canterbury Court have a host of built-in immunity boosters right outside their door. The community is focused on wellness in every way, thanks to a choice of healthy activities year-round, along with many opportunities to build friendships, learn about healthy living, and enjoy pursuits that keep you feeling active, connected and vital. Learn more about Canterbury Court’s wellness focus.