Winter conditions dangerous for elderly

Friday, January 12, 2018
For many senior citizens, a fall during the winter due to slippery conditions can be a traumatic event. Seniors must find a balance between staying active and moderating the risk of falling. / Photos contributed

When freezing temperatures hit Iowa, seniors are at higher risk of health problems and injuries. Elderbridge Agency on Aging offered tips for seniors to balance the desire to remain active with safety in the ice and snow.

“We care for all of our participants who use our services,” Taylor Boyle, healthy aging coordinator for Elderbridge, said. “We want them to know how to stay safe in the winter. We want them to know the importance of staying mobile in the winter too.”

Replacing badly worn shoes or boots, being prepared for the ice with deep cleats for walking in snow, using an ice gripper for your cane, wearing gloves to keep the hands free for balance and keeping walking paths clear of snow and ice are among the tips Elderbridge offers to its clients.

“In the wintertime seniors should be a little more cautious,” Boyle said. “It is important to just slow down. Slow and steady wins the race. If it is really bad outside, maybe you can wait for another day to go out.”

The agency rep also suggested walking on the ground next to the sidewalk when there is an icy spot on the sidewalk, to bring kitty litter to spread out ahead of icy spots on your path and to wear brightly colored clothes to be more visible to motorists.

Though the winter months can be treacherous, Boyle said mobility is key for seniors.

“The greatest danger I would say is for them losing their mobility,” Boyle said.

“I have seen it. A lot of these seniors think it is winter, and they stay inside not doing anything. It is important to get out as well as to have social contact. It is proven to help your mood and overall health.”

Boyle also teaches fall prevention classes through Elderbridge.

Matter of Balance is a class designed to help seniors who have experienced falls in the past learn flexibility, strength and balance.

Stepping On is a class that focuses on improving strength and balance through practical exercise.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalization and deaths for Iowans aged 65 or older.

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