Health and Wellness

Winter safety tips for walkers

A list of tips and tricks to help seniors prevent falls on snow and ice while walking outdoors during winter conditions

The best way to endure winter? Get outside and embrace it! Walking outdoors offers excellent exercise, fresh air and a healthy dose of nature. Amica residences are designed to be walkable; located in neighbourhoods with good walking paths nearby or within, and with the added benefit of organized weekly or daily walking activity groups.

Image for Conversations Article Winter Safety Tips for senior with walkers.

The tricky part for many seniors is enjoying the benefits of walking while safely navigating slippery stairs and sidewalks. Between 20 and 30 percent of Canadian seniors fall each year, and winter surfaces increase the risk of tumbling. The good news is falls may be prevented if you follow these safety tips for winter walks.

Wear Good Boots

Look for lightweight boots with sturdy low heels and a non-slip tread. It may sound obvious, but they should also be waterproof and insulated: if you’re feeling the chill of the weather you’ll be tempted to rush, which might increase the risk of accidental falls. To prevent heat loss while outside, dress in layers and wear winter clothing (hat, mittens, scarf and coat) that’s windproof, waterproof and insulated.

Add a Cane for Balance

Consider using a cane, ski poles or walking sticks. Attach a retractable ice pick (available at pharmacies) to a cane to increase grip. Flip it up once you enter a building: it will be slippery on hard surfaces.

Bring Your Own Grit

Pack a small bag of sand or cat litter in your jacket so you can sprinkle the pavement with something gritty to increase traction.

Make a Safe Exit and Entrance

Place your boot flat on the ground to ensure your footing when you’re getting out of cars and off buses. Use the same caution when stepping inside. Wet floors can make entryways slick.

Do the Penguin Shuffle

If you must cross an ice patch, move slowly and take short shuffling steps. Put down your boot so it’s flat, then shift your weight to this foot and bring your other foot to meet it. Keep your feet about 12 inches apart to give yourself a stable base. Think like a penguin and use your arms and hands for balance. Keep hands out of pockets and avoid lugging heavy loads that can send you off-kilter.

Ask for Help

Do you offer a hand when someone needs it? Passersby will be equally pleased to help you around an icy surface.

Share Where You Go

As you build a walking routine, make sure a neighbour, friend or family member knows your usual route and what time you head out. If you do happen to fall, it’s best that someone knows where you might be. If you have a cell phone, bring it along and be sure it has a full battery. Even better, walk with a friend!

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