Navigating Winter with Confidence

by Cynthia Germain

Well, it was bound to happen…SNOW. We live in Wisconsin and know the challenges of winter, especially when it comes to snowy conditions. For older adults, however, ensuring safety during the winter months is paramount. With a few practical precautions and some planning, seniors can confidently navigate snowy weather.

Let’s start with the things you can control, and that starts with the feet. Wearing the right footwear is crucial when walking on snowy or icy surfaces. Consider shoes or boots with non-slip soles and good traction to prevent slips and falls. Ice grips or traction cleats can also provide additional stability.

And then there’s how you walk. “Penguin walking” is recommended, a walking technique that can help navigate on slick or icy pavement. The name is derived from the way penguins waddle as they walk, which involves taking short, shuffling steps to maintain balance.

Here’s how to do the penguin walk – Take shorter steps than usual to ensure that your center of gravity stays over your feet, keep your feet flat and try to land each step with your entire foot rather than just the heel or toe, slightly angle your feet outward, maintain a slight bend in your knees, and extend your arms slightly to the sides to help maintain balance.

By making these adjustments into your walking style, you can reduce the risk of falling outside. Also keep an eye out for handrails for added support when walking on steps or uneven surfaces.

It goes without saying to “dress appropriately”, but this is even more important for older adults as blood circulation can be diminished. Layer clothing to helps trap warmth, wear a hat and most importantly, gloves to protect those precious digits. If it’s particularly chilly, consider thermal socks and insulated outerwear.

If you drive, ensure that your vehicle is winter-ready. Check tire treads, keep the gas tank filled, and have an emergency kit in your car. Always have a charged mobile phone with you. And don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed, not just for a lift to town but If snow removal becomes challenging.

And if venturing outside does become challenging, consider engaging in indoor activities to stay active. Simple exercises, hobbies, or even virtual social activities can contribute to overall well-being. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and plan your activities for times when the weather is expected to be better.

Finally, during these winter months, be prepared for emergencies such as extra medications, working flashlights, and a first aid kit readily available. Navigating snowy conditions as an older adult requires a combination of preparation, planning, and perhaps a bit of support. Prioritizing your safety through the winter will mean being ready and able for Spring. It will come before long!