Winter falls can have terrible consequences no matter what age you are – but there are some sensible steps you can take to help minimise the risks.
Whether you are young or old – each and everyone of us is at risk of slipping over in icy conditions.
However, whilst the young of us can break bones after the slightest of slips, trips or falls, the effects can be somewhat life-changing or even fatal for our elderly.
It's estimated that approximately 1 in 3 of people aged over 65 will fall in a year, rising to nearly half of all those aged 80 plus – falls which not only destroy their self-confidence, but also increase isolation and reduce independence, but can also have more serious consequences.
One very common result of trips and falls in our elderly is a fractured hip, and sadly the NHS estimates up to 1 in 3 people die within 12 months of such an injury, often because of other conditions that set in after the initial fracture.
Age UK says falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for more than 4 million hospital bed days each year in England alone, and the charity estimates that the fear of falling again means one in ten older people who've fallen are afraid to leave their homes again.
Research shows that over 2 million older people worry about not being able to get out as much over winter because of poor weather conditions and shorter, darker days.
Falls are a serious threat to older people's health, wellbeing and independence, and winter can be a particularly challenging time because of slippery pavements.
Falls in later life are often dismissed as an inevitable part of growing older, when in reality they are and can be preventable.
Prevention begins when everyone reports any unsafe conditions. They also advise older people to wear extra layers to protect more vulnerable parts of the body like the head, neck, hip and spine in case they fall.
Special garments are also available to help the elderly protect their hips if they should fall.
Icy conditions increase the number of falls older people have each year and with 8,000 people falling every day in the UK on average, the number of casualties that hospitals could see in the winter months is huge.
Top tips from Rospa for staying safe on winter’s slippery surfaces
1. Wear sturdy footwear with a good grip – you can change into other shoes at your destination.
2. Use Nordic walking poles (or similar) if you have them
3. Take it slowly and allow yourself extra journey time – a last-minute dash to catch the bus could be a slippery disaster
4. Keep an eye on what's underfoot. Some places will remain icy for longer than others, e.g. places that don't get the sun
5. If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, or even neighbours who are new mums, offer to go to the shops for them
6. If councils have provided grit bins, use them – but don't remove vast quantities for your own use
7. Of course, as well as slips and trips on pavements and in public places, many people fall on their own footpaths and driveways. Take care in these places too – it may be worth buying some sand, salt or grit so you can scatter it on your drive etc if wintry conditions are forecast.
For more information and advice on preventing falls or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/falls