Be Prepared for the Winter Ahead

December 19, 2020

Be Prepared, Winter Is Here 

In Maine and New Hampshire, we’ve already seen this winter’s first big storm and the first day of winter is just a few days away.  It’s an important reminder for everyone, especially seniors – and their families and caregivers – to prepare now for the winter ahead.

Winterize your home. If you haven’t done it already, run through this checklist. It’s far better to find and fix a problem now than in the middle of a snowstorm in January.

√ Install storm windows.

√ Make sure windows and doors are airtight; add caulk or weather stripping as needed.

√ Clean gutters of leaves and debris.

√ Check roof for damage and leaks.

√ Turn off outdoor water.

√ Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Check heating systems. Many winter calls to technicians stem from systems that haven’t been well-maintained. Make sure you stay warm and safe by having a professional make sure your heating system, water heater, and any appliances that burn coal, gas, or oil are clean, working properly, and well ventilated. Chimneys should also be checked once a year. Annual service is also important to prevent fire hazards and exposure to carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can poison and kill in minutes.


Plan for snow and ice removal. Slick steps, walkways, and driveways increase risk for falls and injury, and make it tough for first responders and other service and delivery folks to get to your door. To find a reliable helper who will be ready to clear snow and keep footing safe with sand, cat litter, or salt:

  • Ask neighbors to recommend a nearby teen who help for a fee.
  • Ask local churches and high schools if they have volunteers who shovel for seniors.
  • Ask your city or town if they have a program to help seniors with snow removal. In Portland, call Linda Weare at Elder Affairs, 207-541-6620. In South Portland, call Social Services at 207-767-7617.


Be ready for storms and power outages. New England winter weather is notorious for creating poor driving conditions and knocking out power. You can’t stop it, but you can prepare for it.

  • Have an ample supply of food and drinks that don’t need to be cooked or refrigerated.
  • Have extra medicines – prescription and over-the-counter – on hand.
  • Keep blankets, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, and a battery-powered radio handy.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and handy.
  • Have a plan with a relative or neighbor to check in during storms, and know where you can stay if power and heat are out for an extended period.


Plan to stay connected.
Winter conditions make it tougher for everyone to get around, including seniors. Yet staying socially engaged is essential to prevent isolation and depression. “Set up a schedule to call family on Mondays, friends on Wednesdays, and a neighbor on Fridays,” recommends Brinn Sullivan, Senior Services Supervisor for the city of Portsmouth, N.H.

Consider having a friend of family member introduce you to technology like Facetime and Zoom. Reach out to other older adults you might know that share your interests – maybe from church, a book club, or a class you’ve taken. Ask your local aging agency about phone pal programs.

Car concerns. If you drive, make sure your car is ready for winter conditions – and have a backup transportation plan for times when you’re not comfortable on the winter roads.

√ Get your car serviced now. Check oil, tires, battery, wipers, and fluids. 

√ Know your inspection date. It might be worth taking care of this early if your car will be due for inspection in the height of winter.

√ Keep a cell phone charger in your car, just in case.

√ If you use a roadside assistance membership service like AAA, make sure your membership is current.

It may seem like a lot to do, but take heart. There’s still time to get it done – and once winter officially arrives, you’ll be glad you did.