This time of year, outdoor walkways more closely resemble skating rinks, as they become slippery hazards obscured by leaves, rain, ice and snow. Though many falls are more embarrassing than they are painful, injuries and even deaths caused by falling are common and more prevalent in the winter months (though it’s important to be cautious of trip hazards year-round).
Senior citizens, being less agile and more fragile, are especially at risk. Unfortunately, falls are the number one cause of injury to seniors, one in three of whom will fall each year and too often, the result is a debilitating fracture, loss of independence or death.
So, how to avoid outdoor slips, trips, falls and their resulting injuries this winter? The New York Times offers a few tips:
- “Check your footwear. Shoes and boots should have slip-resistant soles (rubber or neoprene, not plastic or leather). Or equip them with external traction cleats, sold under brand names like Yaktrax.
- Take smaller steps, bend forward slightly, go slow and walk as flat-footed as possible when it’s icy or snowy. Check the steps and sidewalk for black ice before going out in the morning, even if only to pick up the paper or mail. Do likewise when stepping out of a vehicle. Although the air temperature may be above freezing, dew or fog can freeze on a colder surface.
- Always use a handrail when going up and down stairs. Consider installing a railing on stoops that lack them. If an item you want to carry is too big to hold in one hand or arm, ask someone to help.”
Along with these tips, it’s vital to maintain your physical strength and balance as much as possible as you age. Higher levels of physical activity have been shown to protect against falls, so keep active or consider sessions with a personal trainer or physical therapist if you aren’t sure where to start.
Even after taking all the precautions, falls are bound to happen, and when they do, it’s important to be prepared. Some experts recommend learning “the right way to fall” which involves trying to stay relaxed as you fall, tucking your head when falling backward to avoid hitting your head, rolling onto your back upon landing and more.
Do you have questions about staying active in the winter or preventing dangerous falls? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, is an expert in joint replacement surgery, sports medicine, exercise and health and more. Contact Dr. Stickney and return to your healthy, pain-free lifestyle!