Baby, It’s Cold Outside!
When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems and injuries related to the weather. Most dangerous are: Hypothermia, frostbite, snow shoveling injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning and falls in ice and snow.
If you are at risk of falling while walking on winter sidewalks or have already experienced a traumatic fall outside, here's some advice to stick to so you don't slip.
TIPS FOR WALKING
- Inspect outsoles on your shoes and boots for excessive wear. Replace badly worn footwear.
- Boots with deep cleats are best when walking on snow. If ice is expected, use ice cleats or Yaktrax that fit over your shoes/boots to provide increased traction on ice. Be sure to remove them once you are indoors, as they can be slippery on hard surfaced flooring or catch on carpet.
- Consider an ice gripper for your cane or use hiking poles with rubber tips that can be removed to leave an ice tip on the bottom for use in icy conditions.
- Keep walking paths clear of snow and ice. Be aware and be cautious. Walk as though snow and ice are present, i.e. upright posture, weight above knees, short strides, flat-footed gait.
- Take slower smaller steps, especially when turning. Understand that activities such as crossing streets will take longer.
- Wear gloves to keep hands free (not in your pockets) to help balance yourself.
- Consider a backpack, an over-the-shoulder strapped bag, or a suitcase/cart with wheels to carry items. Besides keeping your hands free for balance assistance, your vision will not be obstructed.
- When you have a choice, travel on pathways that are in direct sunlight since they are often less icy. Be aware that sunlight causes melting and refreeze (black ice) should be expected.
- If snow and ice cannot be removed from a particular area, spread ice melt or sand or to improve traction. Oil absorbent and paver base are great alternatives to sand.
- Carry a zip plastic bag in your pocket filled with kitty litter to spread out ahead of your path if there is an unavoidable icy area.
- If a sidewalk is icy, consider walking on the ground next to it. Be alert for holes/uneven surfaces.
- Wear brightly colored clothing so you are more visible to motorists. Consider applying reflective tape on your outdoor clothing and cane or walker. Shorter days mean more time in the dark.
TIPS FOR CAR TRAVEL
- Take great care getting in and out of a vehicle. Try to keep three points of contact when getting in and out of a vehicle: both feet and a hand or two hands and a foot. Reach back into vehicle to grab personal items after you are standing safely outside.
- When getting out of the vehicle, remember your shoe outsoles are warm and tend to create a zero traction moisture layer when stepping onto packed snow or ice.
- Consider an assistive device to help your transition to/from your vehicle. These “car canes” drop into the latch on the door pillar, offering a secure handle for balance assistance and weight transfer.
Elderbridge offers more help through our fall prevention programs, "Stepping On" and "A Matter of Balance". But until our next workshops are scheduled, talk with your family members in taking simple steps to stay safe. Adult children can give useful and lifesaving fall-proofing holiday gifts. Falls are not just a “senior” issue. Please visit https://www.lifelonglinks.org/ to watch falls prevention videos and to access resources to help prevent future falls.