Walk Like a Penguin to Avoid Winter Falls

image of a penguin demonstrating walking on ice

With rapidly changing weather patterns this winter, it’s hard to stay on top of what travel hazards you might be facing any given day on the road, sidewalk or even in the driveway.  It is estimated that one in every three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall and each year nearly 1.8 million United States seniors are treated in an emergency room as a result of a fall.

But there are a few precautions older adults can take to avoid slip and fall accidents caused by snow and ice.  Walking like a penguin on ice, keeping your center of gravity over your front legs, can help prevent falling backwards or landing on a hip.

Waddling like a penguin with feet spread out slightly will increase your center of gravity and by taking small steps, falls can be avoided.  We normally walk with one leg striding opposite the other, forcing each leg to support the entire body’s weight at an oblique angle which can easily result in a fall when stepping on a icy surface.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends keeping hands out of pockets while walking to increase your center of gravity and provide added balance.  If you do slip on frozen sidewalks or stairs, try to tuck into a ball and keep your head and face away from the fall.  Don’t reach out with your hands to break the fall, you can injure arms or wrists.  Instead try to land where you have some natural cushion, avoiding knees or spine.

To further help prevent older adults from slipping on icy surfaces, keep sidewalks, driveways and stairs shoveled and treated with salt or sand for additional grip.  Seniors who use a cane can add an ice tip in the winter months and should always wear boots or shoes with good traction when walking outdoors.   Slow down and walk without rushing, using handrails and cleared walkways to stride more safely this winter.

To learn more about winter fall prevention and safety tips, visit Denver Health by following this link.