Fall prevention in winter weather important for seniors

Falls are among the biggest threats to seniors’ health and well-being. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the incidents are responsible for more than half of all injuries among Canadians 65 and older. In fact, approximately 20 percent of injury-related deaths among seniors can be traced back to a fall. While there are some steps both seniors and caregivers can take to reduce the risk of experiencing a fall, the winter weather can pose a challenge. A walk that might be free of hazards during the spring and summer can be troublesome once cold weather and ice arrives. However, with the right approach seniors can prevent falls even when winter comes.

Focus on footwear
Most people take the time to put on all the appropriate winter wear when they’re heading outside – hats, gloves and heavy jackets - but the importance of footwear can sometimes be overlooked. However, seniors should pay close attention to what kind of shoes they’re wearing once the temperature drops and black ice might be waiting on the sidewalk. Experts recommend purchasing rubber or neoprene soles because they offer better traction on slippery surfaces. While comfort shoes, which are often made from leather or plastic, are popular among seniors, they should be avoided during the summer.

Build up strength
One of the best ways for seniors to avoid falls, regardless of the time of year, is for them to follow a regular exercise regimen. More specifically, they should focus on strength and balance. According to the Mayo Clinic, tai chi is a particularly helpful activity because its gentle movements are ideal for aging joints. Not only that, but it places an emphasis on flexibility as well as strength and balance so seniors can stride more confidently when they’re outside, even if it’s in the winter.

The caregiver’s role
While seniors can help themselves when it comes to fall prevention, it’s also important for caregivers to play a part in the process. For instance, if their loved one lives at home, they should be sure to clear off their walkways and make sure they are salted to reduce the risk of falling. Additionally, if they’re driving their loved ones, it’s imperative they help them get out of the car because this is where many falls occur. With the right amount of collaboration, caregivers and seniors can enjoy a fall-free winter.