With several months of winter left, we’re starting to see the worst of the season’s storms sweeping across the nation. According to the US Department of Labor, about 15% of accidental deaths are caused by slips and falls, and seniors are at particular risk. Now is a good time to take a few minutes and review how to stay safe on the slippery streets, floors, and sidewalks as we slog through the wintry slush.
- Keep your hands free. When you walk with your hands full, you are more likely to be unable to recover from a momentary loss of balance, especially as you get older. When you can’t avoid navigating across a potentially icy parking lot or set of steps, you can hold your hands out for balance and use railings, a walking stick, or even a ski pole to help you make your way.
- Plan ahead. Whenever possible, try and plan your day, and the route you will take, ahead of time. Keep an eye on the weather, especially if you live in an area where conditions can shift dramatically over just a few hours. Also, be mindful of potential problem areas in your home. Place mats at entryways and salt your steps, sidewalk, and porch in the morning. Traction is the key to avoiding a fall, so invest in shoes with good traction, and replace those that have worn out their treads.
- Avoid obstacles. Ensure that walkways are clear inside and outside of your home. Avoid routes that will force you to navigate around objects that could distract your or put you on a more difficult and dangerous path. Whenever you are out and about in a potentially risky area, your full attention should be on your movement.
- Take a lesson from penguins. The way we naturally walk makes us more prone to slips and falls due to how we distribute our weight. Walk by leaning your torso forward so that your center of gravity is over your front leg – like a penguin does – instead of split over both legs. Here’s a handy diagram.
Above all, try and enjoy the season! Just do so safely.