It may sound like a contradiction at first, but staying active is integral to avoiding slips and falls, in winter and otherwise, said Erin Yelland, assistant professor and extension specialist at Kansas State University’s School of Family Studies and Human Services.
“Also, you need to be safe while staying active — especially if you’re doing so outside during winter,” Yelland said.
While her tips are designed with older adults in mind, Yelland’s advice could help just about anyone to avoid slips and falls, in winter and otherwise:
• Shoes, shoes, shoes! No matter the weather, we should always strive to wear proper footwear – that is, shoes that support your foot appropriately, have a firm sole, and have good traction. Traction is especially important during the winter months as you never know when you will encounter a frozen puddle, snow or slush. Investing in a safe pair of shoes can save you thousands of dollars in medical expenses that may result from a fall.
• Do You See What I See? Having your vision regularly assessed is a crucial component of fall prevention. Age-related eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, can affect your ability to see clearly, and having an untreated condition can affect your ability to walk safely, especially on slippery surfaces. When was the last time you had your eyes checked? If it’s been longer than 12 months, it’s time to see the eye doctor.
• Review your Medications. Have you ever read the warning labels on your medicine bottle? Perhaps you should! One of the more common side effects of medications is dizziness or lightheadedness. These side effects can also increase your risk of experiencing a fall. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Oftentimes there may be another, similar medication you can try that may not give you the same negative effects. • How’s your Health? Did you know that inner-ear disorders can make you susceptible to falls? What about low blood pressure or even arthritis? Having regular check-ups – at least once every 12 months – is an important part of fall prevention. Talk to your doctor about what might increase your risk of falls, and discuss ways to compensate for or address those issues.
• Keep on Movin’! Research shows that older adults who regularly engage in exercise – of all kinds! – are less likely to experience a fall. Try walking around the block, practicing Tai Chi or Yoga, or even practice balancing on one foot (with a sturdy wall or chair nearby to catch yourself if you become unstable). Any amount of exercise is beneficial for your overall health!
Yelland also shared some general thoughts on staying active during winter months.
The winter wind can be frigid in Kansas, so it’s important to find safe, warm places to exercise if the weather prohibits you from going outside. Local residents have several options for gym memberships or fitness activities offered through the Great Bend Recreation Commission. Some are specifically designed for seniors. The Cavanaugh Wellness Center, located at the Great Bend Recreation Center, 1214 Stone St., offers gym equipment for a fee, and free use of the indoor walking track. For more information call the Great Bend Recreation Commission, 620-793-3755.
“Some of my favorite workout videos are available on YouTube for free, and I am able to exercise in the comfort of my own home and at my own schedule,” said Yelland, who added she prefers Yoga videos. “The National Institute on Aging even offers workouts for older adults on their YouTube channel; search for Go4Life on YouTube. These videos range from seven to 60 minutes,” she said.
“One of my favorite activities to do with my kids is GoNoodle – a free website and app that offers movement and mindfulness for kids. But, it’s really not just for kids! My husband and I do it alongside my kiddos at home frequently, and we have a lot of fun doing it,” Yelland said. Find it online at gonoodle.com.
Finally, Yelland encourages seniors to be creative. “One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to older adults about getting active is that you don’t need a lot of equipment, space or technique to be active,” she said. “Get creative! What do you enjoy doing? How can you get your heart rate up and have fun doing it? If you enjoy dancing, try creating your own routine and sharing it with your grandkids. If you like walking, find a warm, safe facility in your town that can accommodate you; otherwise, walk around the inside of your house. Remember: Being active can lead to living a longer, healthier life!”