Winter brings many slippery surfaces, which can be especially dangerous for your senior loved ones. For instance, if a child fell, a quick brush off and hug may be all he or she needs to keep going. Seniors on the other hand, may take much longer than the younger population to recover.
Because of this slower recovery rate and increased risk for falling, many seniors use mobility aids to stay active. However, these tools can prove challenging to use outdoors, especially on ice and snow. Keep your senior loved ones safe, happy and healthy this winter by adjusting their mobility aids for slippery terrain and cold weather.
Canes and walkers
When upgrading your senior loved ones' canes or walkers for winter, look at the bottoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, the rubber caps on canes are designed for superior grip on the floor. However, ice and snow may damage the tip, rendering it ineffective. Be sure to replace any worn or torn rubber as soon as possible.
Even without wear and tear, the rubber may not be suitable for creating friction on ice and snow. In that case, consider buying ice grips, which are prong-like devices that better catch the terrain.
"Wheelchair users are less likely to attend winter community outings."
A study published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that those who use wheeled mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters, are less likely to attend community outings during winter. The colder weather poses environmental barriers that make it difficult or nearly impossible to leave home.
You likely already know that socializing during retirement has myriad benefits, so encourage your loved ones to get out and about by equipping them with the right wheelchair gear. As with cane and walker tips, make sure the tread on the wheels are not too worn or damaged. If your senior loved ones turn the wheels themselves, have them wear waterproof gloves to protect their hands from the moisture collected on the rubber.
Finally, clear all all walkways and ramps. Assisted living staff will ensure the areas around the senior living community are maintained, but it's important for you and other family members to shovel or salt areas around your own homes when older loved ones visit.
Motorized scooters are perhaps the most effective way for seniors who need mobility assistance to get around during winter. While the wider tires allow the user to get over small amounts of snow and ice, the battery may not be so well-prepared for winter. Batteries typically drain more quickly in cold environments, which can cause your loved one to be trapped in the blustery wind. Make sure you fully charge the device before leaving the senior living community, and always equip the senior with a cell phone to call for help in an emergency.
Even when canes or walkers have winter-appropriate tools, your senior loved ones will still need season-appropriate shoes. Non-slip boots that keep the feet warm are best. Just be sure the seniors remove the footwear once indoors to prevent slipping.
A few adjustments are all you need to keep your older family members mobile and safe this season.