Older adults: be ready for the “fun” weather! On cold mornings, before venturing out, be aware of the temperature, wind chill and humidity. There could be a thin layer of ice on porches, steps, sidewalks, driveways and car door handles. A quick trip to retrieve the mail could end in disaster if you do not survey the ground first. It’s a good idea to have some type of de-ice and a shovel right at your door for easy access.
Shoveling snow also has challenges. Many people start at the top of the driveway and work their way down. The problem is that the closer you get to the base of your driveway, the heavier your shovel becomes, and heavy shovels lead to an increased risk of injury. Start in the center of your driveway instead and work your way out. Better yet: ask for help! Only shovel if you have the physical capacity to do so, as over exertion can happen easily. Don’t forget that your friends and family love you and want to help you out.
When walking, keep your hands out of your pockets, as bracing yourself will not be possible if you slip and fall. Taking small steps when walking minimizes the chances of slipping back on your heels. And don’t forget footwear with slip resistant treads. While assistive devices for walking are necessary, they can also be a hazard on slippery surfaces, so deliberate and careful walking is recommended.
Indoor floor surfaces can be just as dangerous. Stores with polished floors become surprisingly slippery beneath wet footwear. Even inside your home, it is wise to invest in an absorbent door mat to prevent puddles of water on your floor, which could become a slipping hazard.
When navigating outdoor steps, a good rule of thumb is to maintain three points of contact: two feet on the ground and one on the handrail or two hands on the handrail while one foot is on the ground. This applies to getting in and out of cars as well, where your car door could serve as the handrail.
Driving is always a challenge in winter, too. Give yourself two car lengths for extra time to stop and when turning at an intersection, assume the oncoming car may not be able to brake if their light changes and the road is slippery.
As the saying goes, if you take an umbrella, it probably won’t rain. Let’s hope that if we are all prepared for winter, we will probably see daffodils.