With winter blowing back into the region, the Ohio Department of Aging is urging people to stay safe by offering them tips on how to stay on their feet.
"Slow down; you don't have to be in a hurry. Really consider if you have to go where you're going, but also don't let the wintertime cause you to do nothing," Ohio Department of Aging spokesman John Ratliff said. "Being afraid of falling and restricting your activity is just as big a risk."
Ratliff said it's not an exaggeration to call falls among older adults an epidemic in Ohio.
"Falls are the No. 1 cause of injuries, ER visits and hospitalizations for older adults," he said, but pointed out that falls are not a normal part of aging.
Most falls can be prevented, he said, which is the reason for the STEADY U Ohio initiative, which he said strives to raise awareness of falls and prevent them.
Although the snow and ice pose a particular challenge, Ratliff said those aren't the only hazards people face in the winter. Other things include tripping hazards, such as space heaters and blankets, bulky winter clothing that restricts movement and power outages that limit the ability to see obstacles.
Some suggestions for staying upright include wearing boots and shoes with good traction that fit properly; giving yourself extra time and slowing down when you have to go somewhere; ensuring handrails are installed and utilized near steps; watching for slippery surfaces ahead of you; steering clear of deeper accumulations of snow; and cleaning up snow and ice that is tracked indoors as well as removing wet footwear.
The Ohio Department of Aging encourages all Ohioans to check on their older loved ones and neighbors during severe weather and suggests taking the following steps: Do a risk assessment; check vital supplies such as water, non-perishable food and medications; and evaluate their access to help.
Despite the extra risks of winter, Ratliff said people should always be vigilant in preventing falls, no matter what the season.