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Reading, PA 19605

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Winter Woes and What To Watch For


Why is winter called “Old Man” winter? Is it because of the snow on the roof? Maybe it’s a mishearing of “Oh, man! Winter!” Perhaps it’s because winter weather generally affects older folks more severely due to changing physical and psychological characteristics.


Snow isn’t the only thing that falls in the winter in Berks County — wet, icy, slippery conditions can be treacherous, especially for those whose sense of balance and reaction time are diminished. Driving and walking can be affected, and no one wants to take those unexpected ski trips. Brittle bones make those falls doubly dangerous, so be very careful and cautious and take it slow!


Of course, there are the usual cautions about seniors shoveling snow, especially if we don’t get enough exercise during the year. The cold weather tends to seal us indoors as well, where we tend to be less active. Less exercise and more hard labor can be a deadly combination, so take this warning to heart! Of course, at Sacred Heart Villa in Reading, residents don’t have to worry about shoveling and maintenance!


Punxatawny Phil the groundhog isn’t the only one who can predict the weather; our aging joints can feel the winter season approaching. This is especially true of those who suffer from joint pain, such as arthritis. One of the medical reasons for the increased pain is the lower barometric pressure from cold fronts, that causes the fluid in our joints to thicken and expand, making them more sensitive to pain.


Explanations don’t help the symptoms, but there are actions we can take to help our bodies survive the cold. Physical activity, also known as exercise, is always beneficial, even for arthritis sufferers. It can ease pain, increase flexibility, and boost energy (and help relieve cabin fever, as well!).


Simple activities that do not entail going to the gym include walking (not just back-and-forth between the TV and the fridge), light jogging, and yoga. The key is to keep moving but in a low-impact way. Sacred Heart Villa residents are treated to a full schedule of activities and amenities to keep them busy.


Dressing up for winter cold may seem to be a pain, but proper clothing can help protect your joints from the cold. Wool is an excellent choice for trapping warm, dry air — Have you ever seen a lamb with arthritis? There are special compression gloves and socks to trap heat and reduce swelling; check with your local pharmacy. And there is the old standby maxim: Dress in layers. A couple of layers of lighter clothing will trap air that will form insulation more efficiently than a layer of heavy clothing (and can be more easily shed if it gets too warm!).


Heat acts as a muscle relaxant and helps reduce pain, so look for heat-therapy devices, such as heat pads, neck and shoulder wraps, therapy gloves, massagers, electric blankets, and the like. Consult your pharmacist or physician for advice and to make sure what you purchase is safe and effective. Sacred Heart Villa staff members help with daily needs, and licensed nurses are available 24 / 7.


When Old Man Winter comes calling, you can tell him, “You are not welcome in this joint!”


The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.


The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, café, and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety, and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day and is open to the public.


Sacred Heart Villa is now accepting residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or a loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit us at