Walk Like a Penguin to Prevent Falls on Ice
February 2, 2018
December 28, 2015
Falls are a leading cause of injury year round, particularly for older adults. But when conditions get icy, the number of falls sharply increases. Learn how to stay safe, and out of the emergency room, by taking a lesson from the experts: walk like a penguin.
The Leading Cause of Injury Deaths
Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults, and second among all Americans, according to the National Safety Council. Each year in the U.S., nearly one-third of adults age 65 and older experience a fall. About one in 10 of those falls results in a serious injury like a hip fracture or head injury requiring hospitalization.
Although falls become more of an issue with age, they can affect anyone, especially when conditions are slick. No matter how well snow and ice are removed, you will still encounter some slippery surfaces.
Take a Lesson From the Penguin
Who better than the penguin understands the best way to walk on ice? Here’s how they stay upright, and if you must go out when conditions are slick, how you can too:
- First, in cold temperatures, assume all wet, dark areas on walking surfaces are slippery.
- Waddle (like a penguin). Point your toes out slightly and keep your center of gravity over your front leg. If you use a cane or walker, be sure to take it with you.
- Spread your feet slightly, and take slow, small steps. Wear appropriate shoes—boots or rubber soled shoes; avoid heels or slick-soled shoes.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets and use them to help maintain balance or, if necessary, break your fall. If you use a cane or walker, be sure to take it with you.
While winter snow and ice conditions may increase the likelihood of falling, falls are a year-round problem, particularly for those 65 and older. Here are 4 tips to stay safe:
- Make modifications to your home. Remove throw rugs and make sure there is good lighting in all rooms, bathrooms, and hallways. Add grab bars to bathrooms.
- Watch your medications for warnings about side effects like dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have your eyes checked regularly to ensure you are seeing clearly.
- Build core strength with this simple exercise you can do at home: Stand up from a seated position 10 times in a row, several times per day.
While some falls will happen regardless of precautions, taking a lesson from the penguin, and following other important recommendations from your doctor and experts like the National Osteoporosis Foundation, can greatly reduce your chance of falling and experiencing a potentially life-threatening injury.
Nancy J. Estep, CRNP, BS, MBA, MS, WCC
Nancy J. Estep, CRNP, BS, MBA, MS, WCC, is a nurse practitioner with LG Health Physicians Geriatrics.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration, The Pennsylvania State University; Master of Business Administration, Shippensburg University; Bachelor of Science in Nursing, York College; Master of Science in Nursing, York College.