January Prevention Events

 1. January is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Suggested Activities: Raising awareness of alcohol and cognitive impairment.

See the Dementia page for recent research and information. Provincial and national Alzheimer societies are a valuable resource with general information on Alzheimer disease and other dementias.


2. Dealing with the Winter Doldrums

So... what can you do when, it's snowy, icy or rainy outside and you are stuck inside for weeks on end because you are concerned about falling? How do you save your sanity during the winter months?

Many older adults find that their drinking level decreases during the summer when they can get outside, but then increases during the winter months.

Prevention strategies can focus on self help ways of improving and maintaining mental wellness and activity levels during the winter. For example, that may include:

* Live in a small community? Don't have a mall? Some seniors' buildings organize a walking group in the building, using a "circuit" on different floors.


Mental Health

Regular telephone contact (even a few minutes a day) with a friends or family members can help maintain a person's emotional spirits in the winter, and may reduce the tendency to rely on more harmful distractions such as an increased use of alcoholic spirits.

Stuck indoors? One senior, who finds winters challenging, says that for a temporary mental diversion, she "channel surfs" to find which television channel offers the best temperature in her city at any given point: "It's amazing how finding a local temperature degree or two higher helps my spirits." I tell myself "See, it's not that cold, it's getting warmer".

She also starts the daylight "count-up" after December 21st, the longest day of the year. "See, the days are getting longer from here on. Spring won't be too far away. .. okay, well, maybe June."

On the prairies, seed catalogues have long been away of thinking ahead about the spring, planning for gardens which may or not actually get planted in the spring. The bright coloured flowers seem to help raise the spirits.

Also see: Canadian Mental Health Association Seasonal Affective Disorder fact sheet in English:

or in French: Trouble affectif saisonnier

Also, from the National Mental Health Association (United States): Seasonal Affective Disorder

3. Alcohol and the cold temperatures: Fact or fancy?

Address some of the seasonal misconceptions:

With colder weather...many people may want a little alcohol to stay warm. Did you know alcohol does just the opposite.? Alcohol increases heat loss from the body, so you may feel the cold even more.

Does alcohol help a cold? No, but alcohol can interfere with your body's ability to fight infection and it may interfere with medications that you're taking.


Prevention efforts can include providing information on important seasonal questions, such as "How does alcohol interact with common over the counter cold medicines?" as part of public information for cold and flu season. See:

 Is it a cold or the 'flu?

 Health Canada acetaminophen warning

4. Non Smoking Week

Many smokers make a New Years resolution to quit smoking. In Canada, 14% of men and 12% of women aged 55 and over are current smokers. (CCTC) The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control has identified many of the negative health effects of smoking. These include heart and circulatory disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, chronic illness, faster aging/ premature death, and impotence.

Many older adults who are heavier drinkers are also more likely to be smokers.


The 3rd Week of January is National Non-Smoking Week (January 15-21, 2006).


The 3rd Wednesday of January is Weedless Wednesday  (January 18, 2006)


Canadian Council on Smoking and Health

Semaine Nationale Sans Fumée


Among other things, the goals of National Non-Smoking Week are to:
  • educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking; and
  • help smokers quit.

Smoking is a special concern for older adults, in that smokers are at much greater risk of developing the flu and pneumonias as well as several chronic respiratory illnesses from smoking. The effects of second hand smoke can also negatively affect their aging spouses.

The Canadian Council on Tobacco Control notes that about half the deaths from smoking happen before the smoker reaches 70 years of age. Those smokers lose an average of 22 years of life. Older persons (70 and over) who die because of smoking lose an average of 8 years of life expectancy.

One of the key messages here is "It is never to late to quit." However, it is important to recognize the challenges that older adults can face when it comes to quitting. Most have been smoking much longer, have been heavier smokers, and may have tried quitting on several occasions.  The health benefits will be there, but may not be as noticeable.

While many adults will get some benefit from quitting smoking at any age, it is important to neither overstate nor understate the potential benefits of quitting in later life.

We are still learning about the best combination of approaches for helping older smokers who would like to quit. Some approaches commonly used for adults may include counseling in person or over the phone, nicotine patches, a prescription smoking cessation drug, and educational materials. In the United States, an ongoing study is examining the best approaches for older smokers. It will be complete in 2005.


Non Smoking Resources:

Canadian Council for Tobacco Control (CCTC). What Are the Smoking Rates in Canada?  and What Are the General Health Effects of Smoking?  See:

Please note the Council is developing a new website in 2005.



Other Nationally and Internationally Recognized Events This Month

Jan 4-11

Diet & Arthritis – Food Facts and Fallacies Education Week




Page last updated Friday December 30, 2005


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