The risk of slipping and falling has escalated in Central Alberta, posing a threat especially to seniors, as the region struggles to manage mounds of snow and streets slick with ice.
According to the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR), falls are the leading cause of injury for the elderly and one in three Albertans over the age of 65 is expected to suffer a fall each year.
No small matter, a fall can lead to a severe injury, chronic pain, a reduced quality of life and, in some cases, even death.
“Falls are terrible for seniors. They change a senior’s life. If they fall and break a hip, it’s a shock to the system and quite a setback,” said Shirley Thomas, program chair for the Central Alberta Council on Aging.
“I know Red Deer is doing its best but the snow is a real concern right now for seniors. You park on Ross Street, step out of your vehicle and the snow is way up past your ankles.”
Falls cause more than 95 per cent of hip fractures among the senior population across the country and 20 per cent of seniors will die within a year following a hip fracture while 50 per cent will never regain their pre-hip-fracture functioning.
Additionally, 40 per cent of admissions to nursing homes are the results of falls, according to the Canada Safety Council.
The community fall prevention committee with Safe Communities Central Alberta held a workshop targeted at preventing senior falls last month. It was geared for service providers who work with seniors in the community.
About 100 people registered for the three-hour event, said Marie Welch, chairperson of the committee.
“Our overall goal is to increase awareness about falls for seniors because falls are the most common cause of seniors ending up in emergency situations or going to see their doctors. And once you have one fall, you’re more likely to have another. It’s a serious thing,” Welch said.
ACICR advises seniors to review their medications as some can increase the risk of falling, keep active for improved balance and watch out for ice, cracks and uneven surfaces while walking.
Thomas recommends seniors wear footwear with good tread and that those using canes purchase a pick-like appliance to attach to the bottom of their canes to increase stability over winter terrain.
Thomas also encourages the public to make sure the walkways in front of their homes are clear for walking seniors.
The Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre in Red Deer offers a home maintenance program that includes snow removal. The centre also runs the YES (Youth Enabling Seniors) program that matches clients in need with youth willing to clear snow on a volunteer or hourly rate basis.