Strategies to reduce the risk of falls in the winter

The winter for Southern Ontario, particularly the GTA region, has been amazing in terms of snowfall. We have had 2 days where the snowfall has exceeded 30 cm in the latter part of 2020. People should still be prepared for snow, after all, February and March are yet to come.

An abundance of snow can pose serious challenges for most people, especially older adults. Walkways, steps, driveways, and sidewalks become extra slippery and the risk of falling increases.

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.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Consider asking a friend, family member or neighbour to help you clear snow and salt surfaces when the snowfall is very heavy. If that’s not possible, consider hiring a snow removal service.

Check your footwear
Wear footwear that suits the weather conditions. Snowboots have tread design to improve grip. Metal spikes or cleats can be purchased for added safety and these are quite easy to attach to your existing footwear.

Work on your balance and build strength
Exercise programs that promote better balance and build strength can help you stay steady on your feet. Consider 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 practice in the comfort of your own home.

Minimize hazards
Hazards in and around your home such as poor nighttime lighting or steps without a handrail? Minimize these hazards, creating a safer overall environment. Note areas that might pose a challenge and consider how improvements can be made to them. Ask a family, friend, or caregiver if they see how you can improve safety in and around your home in relation to fall prevention.

Adults living alone
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.

Source: McMaster Optimal Aging Portal

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