5 Tips for Preventing Falls This Winter

5 Tips For Preventing Falls This Winter

Did you know? According to the World Health Organization, about a third of older adults fall each year. The percentage ranges from 32% to 42% for those 70 years or older.

Low Temperatures Bring a High Risk of Falling

Beyond longing for the sunny days of summer, winter brings with it freezing temperatures, forced time indoors, and a significantly increased risk of falling. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one third of older adults fall each year. With an improved understanding of what causes this increased risk of falling and better awareness of fall prevention tactics, we can help make winter a safer time for our community.

What causes this increased risk of falling?

In order to understand ways to reduce the risk of falling, let’s explore some of the reasons behind the increased risk during the winter months:

  • Change in gait pattern: As we age, our walking patterns change and can become abnormal. This change in gait pattern can contribute to weakening muscles and increased instability while walking. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 61% of falls occurred while walking.
  • Dangerous conditions: Winter’s slippery conditions make what little time we are able to spend outside more dangerous. Walking through the snow, experiencing cold temperatures, and losing traction on icy sidewalks (even with a walker or cane) all contribute to an increased risk of falling.
  • Reduced physical activity: The colder, darker winter months contribute to less time outside and less exercise which can lead to muscle weakness. Combined with weakened vision, bulky winter clothing, and a vitamin D deficiency, this vulnerable state can increase the risk of falling.

How can we help prevent falls this winter?

To help stay safe this winter, check out these actionable fall prevention tips:

  • Choose the right outerwear: Make sure your winter boots or shoes provide enough traction for walking through snowy and icy conditions. Gloves or mittens enable you to keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Walk like a penguin: When walking through snow or on slippery sidewalks, remember to walk like a penguin. This means taking small steps, walking slowly, and pointing your feet outwards to give you a better support base. Slightly bending your knees will give you a lower center of gravity, and keeping your hands out of your pockets will help provide balance.
  • Stay active, indoors: Even if dreary winter weather prevents you from your favourite outdoor activities, find other indoor activities that you can safely engage in. Staying active and maintaining muscle strength is important for helping prevent falls.
  • Maintain a nutrient-dense diet: Helping improve bone strength through a calcium-rich diet, including supplements, veggies, and dairy, can help protect weakened bones against breakage.
  • Have a walking buddy: Walking with a friend, family member, or caregiver is a great way to stay safe while walking outside in the winter. It also helps with maintaining muscle strength and having a sense of companionship.