Worried about falling over in the snow and ice? Try these tips

Winter falls can have disastrous consequences whatever your age – but there are sensible steps you can take to minimise the risks during the bad weather.

It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – everyone is at risk of slipping over in icy conditions.

In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) says there were 7,031 admissions to hospital in 2012/13 as a result of people of all ages falling over on snow or ice.

But while young people can break bones taking a tumble, the effects can be life-changing or even fatal for the elderly.

‘A third of over-65s fall every year’

It's estimated that around a third of people over 65 will fall in a year, rising to approximately half of all those aged 80 and over – falls which not only destroy their confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, but can also have more serious consequences.

One very common result of falls in the elderly is a fractured hip, and sadly the NHS estimates up to one in three people die within 12 months of such an injury, often because of other conditions that set in after the initial fracture.

Fear and isolation

Age UK says falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for more than four 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.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says “the charity's research shows that over two million older people (19%) 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.

“Yet despite having serious consequences, falls in later life are often dismissed as an inevitable part of growing older, when in reality they are preventable.”

How to prevent a fall

This prevention begins with everyone reporting any unsafe conditions, says Rospa. They also advise older people to wear extra layers to protect more vulnerable parts of the body like the head, neck and spine in case they fall.

Special garments are also available to help the elderly protect their hips if they fall, and William Beckett, chief executive of Hip Impact Protection, which makes Fall-Safe hip protectors, says: “Icy conditions exponentially 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.

“Given the current inability for hospitals to manage A&E patients, families, care homes and residential homes need to take active measures to prevent falls causing serious injury this winter.”

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