Are snowbirds healthier than the rest of us?

September 12, 2019

It’s a sure sign of winter.

In late November, normally right after American Thanksgiving, a noticeable number of our Canadian seniors start packing up to head out. Their goal – avoiding the icy temperatures, daunting snowbanks and dark days of a Canadian winter.

Save with SPP will admit to a bit of envy here. Surely there is a health benefit to being a hardy Canuck and toughing out a Canadian winter? Isn’t there? Let’s see.

Au contraire, writes the Retire Fabulously blog. “Cold weather can be harder to endure as we get older,” the blog advises. “A slip on the ice could be more likely to result in injury for older folks, and shovelling show can become too physically taxing.”

The Travelers Country Club blog is definitive on the question, saying snowbirds are definitely healthier than those who tough out the winter.

“According to a 2010 study, enduring cold weather puts people at a greater risk of heart attack. Older people and those with previous coronary heart disease are more vulnerable to the effects of cold temperatures. Bundling up and cranking up the heat in your home can help but it’s not a long-term solution and it can be costly. Snowbirds live in warmer climates all year round, reducing their risk of weather-related heart issues,” the blog notes.

The Cranky Fitness blog sees benefits simply from the increase in outdoor activity snowbirds can enjoy.

“A two to three-fold greater volume of walking for pleasure, the most prevalent type of activity for both men and women, was reported in spring-summer-fall seasons, compared with winter,” the blog reports. As well, data from the Canadian Community Health Survey of 2004 found that the number of respondents who reported they were inactive “increased from 49 per cent in summer to 64 per cent in winter,” the blog reports.

So having less winter means having more spring and summer activities, the blog concludes.

Getting away from winter chores and icy sidewalks is one thing, but the Aging Horizons blog sees other advantages. Citing research from North Dakota State University, the blog says “researchers found seasonal migration provided snowbirds with a change in lifestyle and an extended network of friends, which boosted their quality of life.”

The Ingle International website says that while Canadians travelling abroad – mostly to the U.S. – will enjoy the warmer weather, they have to think about medical coverage while there. “Once you leave your province and enter another country, your medicare benefits stay behind and you become responsible for paying for your own medical costs. You will be lucky if your provincial medicare pays 10 cents on the dollar of any foreign hospital bills you generate,” the site warns.

As well, the blog notes, be sure to check with the federal government’s website on rules on how long you can live outside Canada.

From what we’ve seen here, it sounds like getting away from the winter may indeed make life last a little longer, if only through the boost in activity and less exposure to the toils and travails of winter. If you’re thinking of being a snowbird one day, you may want to put away a little cash today for future travels tomorrow. A wonderful opportunity to turn savings into retirement income is available to all Canadians by opening up a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – be sure to browse on over today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22
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