Winter is in full gear. While that’s great news for winter sports enthusiasts, for others like seniors, the cold season bring its own special blend of challenges and hazards. Snow and ice for example, greatly increase the risk of injuries through slips and falls. Even though some accidents cannot be entirely prevented, taking the appropriate preventive measures can certainly help to reduce the risk of them occurring in the first place.
Tips for a safer, healthier winter
Properly disinfect premises
It’s not unusual for older people to spend more time indoors during the winter months for fear of slipping on the ice and ending up in the hospital. To make matters worse, elderly people also tend to be much more susceptible to viruses and infections like the flu, which can spread like wildfire during our colder months. In fact, mortality rates among seniors over the age of 85 increase significantly during extreme cold snaps. For this reason alone, all high-touch surfaces (such as door handles, elevator buttons and water fountains, which tend to be the most infested with germs) should be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Installing wall-mounted sanitizer dispensers and placing boxes of tissue paper in common areas are other good ideas.
Keep outdoor areas ice-free
Falls can happen all year long but are much more likely to occur during the winter when surfaces are often covered with ice. Seniors’ residences must take special care to reduce this risk. Fortunately, a few simple but effective everyday measures will help keep residents safe.
Outside, have snow regularly cleared away and spread either sand or ice melter on walkways and driveways. If there are stairs, you can also add a sloped path so that people don’t have to navigate slippery steps. Alternatively, apply a non-slip strip at the edge of each step. Look for strips in a contrasting colour than the steps so that they are easier to see. Install grab bars or handles by all stairs and doorways, as well as a delayed action closer on doors.
We often talk about the importance of carpets in facilities, especially during the winter. Carpets do a great job of trapping dirt and preventing it from being spread throughout the building. The flip side is that carpets can also be a tripping hazard, especially for older people with reduced mobility or who need to use a cane or walker. Always secure carpets and mats to the floor around their entire perimeter so that their edges don’t lift up (especially the corners, which can tend to curl upward). Do the same with power cords and any other objects that could be potentially tripped on.
While you’re at it, consider installing handrails on both sides of stairwells for better support, and ensure the
building has adequate lighting. There should be lights/spotlights at all entrances, stairs and walkways. Being aware of potential hazards and taking the right preventive steps will allow seniors to enjoy the gorgeous majesty of winter – even if it they are no longer downhill skiing!