Winter is here, which means the snow is falling and the ground is icy as temperatures fluctuate. This can pose a challenge for older adults as surfaces such as walkways, steps, driveways, and sidewalks become extra slippery which can increase the risk of falling. Falls are the number one reason for injury-related hospitalizations for older adults. In Canada, 1.6 million seniors fall each year, and more than half of those falls result in serious injuries. 

Below are a few fall prevention strategies to help keep you steady on your feet this winter and beyond.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If the thought of shovelling your walkway or driveway is daunting, consider asking a friend, family member or neighbour to help you clear snow and salt surfaces. If that’s not possible, consider hiring a paid service for support. Minimizing your risk of falling will prevent injury and ensure you don’t end up in the hospital unnecessarily.

2. Check your footwear and your foot health

Be it issues with your shoes or feet, being mindful of your foot health is important for preventing falls. Podiatry care, specifically multicomponent care (e.g., podiatrist care with advice, information, exercises, and footwear and/or orthotics) and multifaceted care (e.g., risk assessment by a diverse team of professionals and a referral to a podiatrist) may reduce falls in older adults.

3. Work on your balance and build strength

Exercise programs that promote better balance and build strength can also help you stay steady on your feet. Try doing a Yoga or Pilates class from home to help with core strength. Many instructional classes are available online and through apps and can guide you safely through a practice in the comfort of your own home.

4. Minimize hazards

Are there hazards in and around your home such as poor nighttime lighting or steps without a handrail? You can reduce your risk of falling by minimizing these hazards, creating a safer overall environment. Take notice of areas that might pose a challenge and consider what additions could make an improvement. Ask a family, friend, or caregiver how they could help make any changes that need to be made or assist with finding a professional to get the job done.

For older adults living alone, it is important to ask for help when you need it, especially when it comes to things like shovelling snow. Taking a ground-up approach to your foot health and ensuring you have the proper footwear for the conditions is also important in preventing slips and falls. Improving your strength and balance through exercise and minimizing hazards in and around your home are also tools in your prevention toolkit.

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