As we age, the risk of falling increases significantly. Changes in one’s balance, vision and muscle tone are often cited as primary reasons.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every three adults age 65 and older falls each year, which can lead to serious injuries such as hip fractures and head traumas. These types of injuries can even be life threatening and typically require substantial medical intervention and length recovery periods. In fact, among this age group, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.
Preparation and Prevention: The Keys to Staying Safe this Winter
Safety experts suggest the following tips for winter conditions:
- Wear shoes or boots with skid-proof soles – Snow and ice can make walking treacherous. Make sure you have “winter-safe” shoes so you’ll be less prone to slips and falls while outdoors. If you don’t have a pair, it’s time you did. They can be well worth the investment in terms of your safety and health.
- Be careful when you shovel snow – Shoveling a snowy driveway or an icy sidewalk significantly increases your risk of a fall. If you don’t have someone who can do it for you, take frequent breaks and do not overexert yourself.
Additionally, cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep you warm. Shoveling snow can put too much strain on your heart, especially if you have a heart condition. Shoveling can also be dangerous if you have osteoporosis or balance problems.
- Limit your time outdoors when it’s dark – When the visibility is reduced at night or when the weather conditions are poor, it’s a good time to be inside. It is very easy to miss that icy spot on your sidewalk or that slippery hard packed snow in the driveway. It’s also not an ideal time to be driving your car. Winter weather conditions can be hazardous for anyone at any time, especially at night.
- If you walk with a cane, make sure it is “winterized” – Be sure the rubber tip of your can still has plenty of traction. If it feels smooth, replace it now. Additionally, you can purchase an ice pick-like attachment for your cane for icy conditions. You can purchase one at a medical supply store or you can order one on line.
- Carry a cell phone – For safety sake, take a cell phone with you if you are going out and always make sure it is fully charged. Program your home phone number and the “911” emergency number for your area to make sure you always have access to help if your ever need it. Also, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. That way, they can call to seek help if you’re late. It’s always a good idea to have a plan just in case you fall.
- Maintain outdoor railings — If you have railings leading up to your front door, be sure that they are in good working condition. They should be safe and sturdy enough to bear your weight and capable of preventing you from falling if you slip on wet or icy steps.
- Improve your strength and balance — Experts say that less than 40 percent of all older Americans exercise. Unfortunately, without exercise you lose your muscle tone and strength — especially in your legs –, which is essential to maintaining balance. The CDC highly recommends Tai Chi as a great aerobic activity, as well as a way to improve your balance. The stronger your body and the better your balance, the less likely you are to slip and suffer a dangerous fall.