Fall Prevention When Walking in a Winter Wonderland

A person with an orange shovel throws snow.

When the snow begins to fly, icy and snowy roads are not the only concern. Just getting to the car, the mailbox, or the corner store can be challenging on walkways that may have frozen overnight. ChORUS has compiled steps you can take to help prevent falls this winter for you or an older adult in your life.

Now is a great time to find a good balance and exercise program. Building balance, strength, and flexibility can help older adults avoid falls as they age. The National Institute on Aging has activity resources that can help you start an exercise program, have fun with family of all ages, and stay active in every season.

Just like changing your car tires for proper traction on snow and ice, make sure you have rubber soled boots with good treads. You can also winterize your feet and mobility devices with ice grippers that can go over your shoes, or ice grip tips that attach to a cane. Search online retailers for options.

What can you do to ensure your wheelchair is ready for winter weather? Read tips from the United Spinal Association.

Carrying a small bag of lightweight kitty litter in your pocket is one of several recommendations from the National Council on Aging on fall prevention measures you can take in winter. You can then scatter the litter on slick surfaces to allow for more traction as you walk.

Talk openly with your doctor about fall risks and prevention. Falls are common and costly, especially among Americans age 65 and older. But falls are preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging. Talking with your doctor about the risks and steps you can take towards fall prevention can help keep you on your feet. Be sure to let your doctor know if you fall, feel unsteady, or have concerns about falling.

Cornell Weill Medicine has a few additional ways to reduce your risk of falling in winter:

  • Wearing gloves so that your hands stay warm and out of your pockets, so you can catch yourself if you fall.
  • Walking slowly, taking small, short steps. On slippery surfaces, try shuffling forward without picking up your feet. Wherever possible, walk on snow, grass, or other textured surfaces instead of icy walkways. 
  • Doing the two-step when getting out of your car, placing both feet flat on the ground before getting up. 
  • Avoiding rushing—and the increased risk of falling--by giving yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going.
  • Being prepared for slippery floors inside that result from melting snow and ice. Before you enter any building, look down at the floor for water.

More fall prevention resources: