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The Winter Walkers Guide: 8 Tips for Keeping Seniors Safe Outdoors
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on February 11th, 2016

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The Winter Walkers Guide: 8 Tips for Keeping Seniors Safe Outdoors

Aging & Caregiving

winter walkersWhile ice is treacherous for even the young and able-bodied, it can be particularly dangerous for older adults. When staying inside and waiting for bad weather to clear is not possible, caregivers can take a few steps to help prevent debilitating slips and falls for their aging loved ones. Let’s count down eight tips aimed at keeping seniors safe and mobile when winter weather strikes.

1. Be Alert

Recognizing potential danger spots is an important first step. Encourage seniors to watch their footing while remaining on the lookout for hidden patches of ice and other slippery surfaces. Staying on designated walkways and using handrails when available offer additional protection.

2. Slow and Steady

Walking in winter weather is anything but a race. Make sure seniors allow extra time to reach their destinations in order to avoid rushing when it’s snowy or icy outside.If your loved one uses a walker or cane, remind them to bring it along when walking and use caution.

3. Walk This Way

Advise seniors to take “small” shuffling steps, curling their toes under for traction, if possible. (Need a visual? Picture a penguin.) Arms are good for balancing so keep hands out of pockets and free of heavy loads like shopping bags or handbags. Offering your arm while walking with a loved one can also provide added security.

4. Choose the Right Footwear

Even if your loved one doesn’t venture out into winter weather often, the right shoes are critical. Invest in boots or overshoes with “grip.” Smooth-soled shoes, meanwhile, should be avoided as they increase the risk of slipping.

5. Be Proactive About Snow Removal

Without proper removal, snow can become a packed, slippery surface. Have a plan in place to ensure that steps, stoops, walkways, sidewalks and driveways are promptly cleared of snow and ice and treated with sand or salt.

6. Indoor Safety

Snow-related trips and falls can also happen indoors thanks to melting snow left in entryways. Use indoor and outdoor mats for shaking off snow before entering, and remind your loved one to get in the habit of removing their shoes at the door.

7. Practice Proper Fall Form

Even with the best efforts, falls can be unavoidable. In this case, learning how to fall properly can prevent head, hip, wrist and shoulder injuries. Keeping your head up, tucking your body in, and refraining from using your hands to break a fall are effective fall-prevention measures.

8. Focus on Fitness

Focusing on fitness throughout the year can have particular value when winter weather arrives. In fact, according to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, inactive seniors who did Tai Chi just three times a week decreased their risk of falling by a whopping 55 percent.

According to the National Safety Council's Injury Facts 2015, falls not only lead to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations every year, but they're also the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors. These eight tips can help caregivers keep loved ones safe and healthy despite winter’s chill.

Key Takeaways

  • Falls can have debilitating effects on seniors, but a few simple management techniques offer enhanced safety.
  • While staying inside during winter weather is the best course of action, wearing the right shoes and learning how to walk properly on snow are valuable tools when going out is necessary.
  • Make sure both indoor and outdoor areas of the home are clear of snow and ice.
  • Take preventative action, such as teaching your aging loved one how to fall and encouraging a year-round exercise program.


About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.