Winter Thriving in Maine: Avoiding Risks

What’s not to like about winter?

As a much younger (and less wise) person, I didn’t understand why some people leave their northern homes to winter in the south.  I imagined they must be like migratory birds, not really settled enough to call a particular place their permanent home.  Who needs to live in two places?  Besides, what’s not to like about winter (even a winter in Minnesota where I lived at the time)?

As an older (and I hope wiser) person, I now understand.  I walk like a turtle to avoid slipping on the ice in my rural Maine drive.  That doesn’t always work.  In fact, the first time I slipped and fell, I had to lay there for a while.  I kept thinking, “Is this it? It this the broken hip or back or neck?”  It took me a little while to catch my breath.  After determining there was not enough pain anywhere for a broken bone, I shakily got to my feet by hanging onto the car door.  Painfully sporting a black and blue backside for a few days, I got it.  THIS is why some people winter in the south.

I admit that my friend’s offer for a winter place to stay in Alabama some day is sounding more attractive as I step into my senior years (I just felt my body tense using the word senior in reference to myself.) .  I don’t exactly worry about aging.  I’ve always felt it beats the alternative.  But after that fall in the drive, I decided I would like to age safely, if not gracefully.

As an older (and I hope wiser) person, I now understand.  I’ve learned to walk like a turtle to avoid slipping on the ice in my rural Maine drive.  That doesn’t always work.

Whether I like the word senior is immaterial.  I am one.  And I’m not going to get younger or more physically capable.  I like Maine in the winter.  I want to safely navigate rural living for as long as my body can do that (minus the black and blue backside).  To top it off, I don’t presently have a moving-south option because I’m a working Maine senior.  So far, my game-plan for thriving in winter includes some fairly simply strategies:

I wear ugly boots (you know, the stout ones designed for freezing temperatures and not falling on your backside.  They aren’t fashion-friendly, but who cares if it’s the difference between breaking a hip or not breaking a hip?)

I wear Yaktrax on my ugly boots when it’s icy.  Yaktrax are ugly too.  But they are effective.  (Disclaimer: this is not an infomercial for Yaktrax.  They work well on my ugly boots.  Shop around to find something that works for your ugly boots.)

I have a way to stay warm and have a source of light in my home (what’s your stay-warm plan if the power goes out and your generator, if you have one, fails?)

Have a winter disaster kit to keep in your home (this 72-hour kit may have some over-the-top items in it, but you get the idea.  What will you need if you can’t get anywhere for three days or more?  Put it in your kit and keep it up to date.)

Keep steps and walkways thoroughly shoveled and dry (none of that old snow and ice build-up where the treads and risers meet.  Catch a heel on that stuff and down you go.)

Develop a winter plan with your neighbors.  There’s support and safety in numbers.

I don’t drive or go out in a raging storm (one would think this is a given.  The number of vehicles ending up off the road during any raging Maine storm clearly demonstrates it is not.)

I keep essential winter items in my car in case I get stranded (Ready Wisconsin has a great list and handy tips for winter vehicle safety.  Put your own stuff together – it’s better and much less expensive than purchasing a packaged kit.)

I keep my car well-maintained and I use snow tires (not everyone needs these.  Driving my car in the winter is a bit like driving a kite.  I need snow tires to get out of my drive to the main road even on milder days.)

I don’t drive or go out in a raging storm (one would think this is a given.  The number of vehicles ending up off the road during any raging Maine storm clearly demonstrates it is not.)

I know that most adults, senior or not, who live in Maine know how to get along in the cold and snow.  The challenge is that aging complicates things.  It’s not as easy to keep up with Mother Nature.  The older one gets, the more complicated it becomes.

Bottom line: What’s your winter plan?  Who else knows you have one?  What would happen if you got stuck at home or in your car?  How will you call for help if you fall?  If you are receiving home services, what do you need to have in place if providers can’t get to you right away?

Putting something in place as an answer to these and other winter questions will help you avoid winter risks and keep the season more enjoyable.