We have not seen a lot of snow yet this winter, but we New Englanders know that it is coming! And we know that winter weather can equate to winter falls. Older adults are especially susceptible to these falls; in fact, the CDC website states that “Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.— making falls the leading cause of injury…in this age group.”
What can you do to help prevent winter falls? Consider these tips so that this winter will be a safe one*:
- Choose the right shoe and dress for the weather. Shoes and boots need to fit properly. Make sure the soles have good traction – snow boots or hiking boots will typically provide the best traction. Wearing layers of clothing, a warm coat, and gloves will give you extra padding in case you do fall.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Falls are more likely to happen when you’re in a rush. Leave early to allow yourself ample time to get to where you’re going.
- Walk like a penguin. Take short steps and walk as flat-footed as possible on icy or slippery ground. Bend forward slightly with your center of gravity over your feet, to keep you more stable on slippery surfaces.
- Use handrails. Always use a handrail when walking up or down stairs, or along a sloping walkway.
- Keep your hands free. You’ll need them to help you balance or hold handrails, so avoid carrying heavy loads. Wear gloves so you can keep your hands warm but out of your pockets.
- Pay attention. Be aware of your surroundings, especially patches of black ice. Test any shiny patches before walking over them.
- Advocate for your safety. If entrances or sidewalks do not look safe, speak up and let someone know. If you live in your own house, hire someone to clear the steps and walkways, especially when the snow is wet and heavy.
- Clean your shoes or switch to indoor shoes once you are inside. Snow and ice can freeze on shoes, making them slippery. Always sit down before cleaning or removing shoes. Wipe your feet and watch for slippery floors.
Despite your best efforts, falls may happen. Remember to keep a charged cell phone with you at all times, in the winter months and all year round, in case you need to call for help.
*The tips in this article are taken from the Community Health of Central Washington website: https://www.chcw.org/8-winter-safety-tips/ and the Commonwealth Care Alliance website: https://www.commonwealthcarealliance.org/living-well-at-home/how-to-avoid-winter-slips-and-falls/.