What I remember most about the fall was that it happened so suddenly.
One minute I was walking down the street after finishing the parade route and the next minute I was on the pavement trying to figure out if any part of me was in pain and I could get back up.
I had just started to get my bearings when a gentleman who had witnessed my stumble into the pothole stepped behind me, put his arms under my arms and lifted me to my feet.
Thankfully, I was not hurt, but the incident alerted me to one of the dangers of walking outside. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings. Look ahead at your path and watch for cracks, holes, uneven areas, fallen tree branches and other obstacles. Scanning ahead gives you time to adjust your step to avoid the hazard.
Falling outdoors is common - as many as one-third of older adults fall outside at least once a year. Many of those adults fall more than once.
Fortunately, the chances of falling can be drastically reduced if we integrate fall prevention tips into our daily lives. Here are some additional tips for safety:
- In the winter, walk as though snow and ice are present. They may not be visible. Take slower and smaller steps and realize that activities such as crossing streets will take longer.
- When sidewalks are slippery, consider taking a detour through the grass, but only if it’s dry.
- Shoes can provide traction, or grip, so choose your footwear wisely. Choose a flat shoe with firm, rubber soles and low heels. Check the bottom of your shoes and replace them when the treads begin to wear out.
- Use a slip-on traction device for shoes to improve stability and prevent falls on ice and snow.
- If you feel unsteady, use a cane or walker for stability. Especially when your healthcare provider recommends it.
- Get an ice tip for your cane
- Carry rock salt or kitty litter in your car in the winter to sprinkle on slippery sidewalks.
- At night, park in well-lighted areas. For times that’s not possible, keep a flashlight, with fresh batteries, in your car.
- Wear bright-colored clothing so that you are easily visible.
- Use handrails to go up and down steps and on escalators – whether you’re inside or out.
- In autumn, beware of leaf-covered steps, decks, porches and sidewalks. They can be dangerously slippery.
- Turn on your porch light before you leave home in the early evening. You’ll be able to see where you’re going when you return after dark.
- Keep your hands free by using a shoulder bag, backpack purse or fanny pack.
- Find groceries, pharmacies and other services that deliver, to avoid having to go out in bad weather.
- Check the height of curbs before stepping up or down. And take note of curbs cut away for bike or wheelchair access. The slope could cause a fall if you’re taken by surprise.
Getting outside is good for your health, so don’t let a fear of falling keep you trapped inside. Use this simple checklist in your day-to-day activities to identify and take steps to overcome the falls risks in your community.
Laurie Sidle is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences program assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.