With winter weather fast approaching, it’s important to remember that with this new season comes new risks for senior citizens. Hidden fall risks are everywhere – from rain to snow, and black ice – make sure you and your loved ones are prepared.
Wet walkways, leaves on the ground and black ice increase the risk for falling, especially for seniors who may already struggle with walking and balance. A recent study published in the international health and science journal Injury Prevention, found that the risk of serious hip fractures increased by 27% during winter for those between the ages of 65 and 79. Many of these wintertime fractures are caused by slipping and falling on ice and snow. (HeatTrak)
Here’s a list of the 3 most common hazards that cause someone to slip, trip, or fall – and what to be on the lookout for:
During heavy rain water can pool presenting a risk for a slip. This water can also make your walkway very slick. To stay safe, wear appropriate footwear. Wear shoes or boots with rubber soles as well as soles that are rough-textured that provide good grip in all kinds of weather conditions.
Leaves on the Ground
As the beautiful leaves continue to fall, oftentimes they end up piling up on roadways, walkways, and stairs. Stray leaves, wet or dry, can make for a very slippery walkway. Fallen leaves can also end up covering divots in the ground or uneven areas, increasing your chances of stumbling and falling.
The trickiest hazard of them all is black ice. Be on the lookout for glossy looking pavement before venturing out. In parking lots, take your time walking and keep your eyes open to possible icy spots. Around your building or home, make sure to salt the ground on all walkways as well at the base of steps. Salting the ground not only helps to melt any existing icy spots, but creates traction to provide a solid footing as your walk.
How to Stay Safe
Now that we know what to look out for, here’s a recap of how you and your loved ones can stay safe this winter:
- If you need to go outside, plan ahead so you can focus on traveling safely to your location. You significantly increase your chance of falling when you are in a rush and are less cautious.
- Walk slowly, take your time, clear whatever you can from walkways (e.g. leaves and snow), and use a friend or family for support when walking in slippery or icy conditions. Also, use handrails wherever available.
- Make sure the area is well lit. Check that outdoor bulbs are working and are bright enough to illuminate your path.
- When walking to a location, travel on the safest route and use the most common area that people walk on—typically that is the safest and clearest path.
- Balancing exercises. Working on balance throughout the year will help to keep you stable as you step. According to HeatTrak, balancing exercises “have been shown to reduce senior slip-and-fall incidents by as much as 37%.”
- Invest in good shoes. In addition to good support for your feet, make sure your shoes have rubber soles with a fair amount of treads.
- Salt walkways and steps to prevent black ice, and provide traction for walking.
- Avoid carrying items in your hand so you can concentrate and focus on each and every step.
- When you get indoors, be sure to dry the bottom of your shoes. Drying them before walking through a home will limit the chances of falling when walking over a smooth surface or floor.
- Keep a cellphone handy in the event you have fallen and are alone or invest in a device like Life Alert® to be sure you get the help you need quickly.