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Slips, trips and falls: Wet weather safety for older people

Wet weather is a great time to rug up, drink tea, and read a good book. At the same time, it can also be a dangerous time for an older person, where the risk of an unexpected fall, slip or trip could put your health and wellbeing in jeopardy.

Last updated: June 20th 2022
Older person getting assistance traversing wet walkway
Falls, trips and slips have been identified as the main cause of unintentional injury in older people. [Source: iStock]

Key points:

  • Slips, trips and falls are identified as the main cause of unintentional injuries in older people
  • Older people with mobility aids, wheelchairs or scooters may be more at risk of injury during wet weather
  • When out walking in the community, look out for paths that are covered in moss, slime or wet leaves

During wet winters, surfaces can become more slippery, and this can increase your risk of slipping or falling over.

Nearly one in three older people in Australia have had a fall within the last year and one in five have been hospitalised from a fall.

Slipping over and falling at an older age can lead to the need for extra health and home care services, an increase in negative health conditions or injuries (like fractures), and in some cases can result in an unexpected move into residential aged care or even death.

It is important to put in place appropriate measures to ensure you are protected from injury at any time, but especially during the wet winter months.



The dangers of falls

The Federal Government has identified falls as the main cause of unintentional injury in older people. In Australia, two out of three falls usually happen in your own home or around your home.

Older Australians are more at risk of adverse outcomes from falling over due to their ageing and chronic health conditions. You can learn more about improving your mobility against falls in our article, 'How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls'.

Older people are more likely to live with osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bones, and while it doesn't increase your likelihood of falling, it does increase your likelihood of bad injuries from a fall.

The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing estimates that one in four men and two in five women will have at least one trauma fracture in their older age. And the most common location for a minimal trauma fracture is the hip.

Around nine in ten cases of a hip fracture at a hospital is due to an older person falling over.

The changes in your body as you age can lead you to be more at risk of falling or slipping over, like balance issues, poor vision, and new health issues and conditions.

Wet weather safety measures

During wet weather, it is important to put in place safety measures in your life and around the home to keep yourself and others safe.

Keeping your home and garden maintained and clutter-free can reduce your risk of tripping or unnecessary manoeuvering around your home.

If you use mobility aids, ensure you are regularly maintaining these aids. This could mean tightening bolts on your walker or replacing wheels on your manual or electric wheelchair if they lose tread. These steps can reduce your risk of sliding on slippery surfaces.

Wearing good footwear, like sneakers with good traction and grip, can also help you navigate around the home or community without worrying about slipping over. Shoes that have rubber soles are more slip-resistant in wet weather compared to vinyl or leather shoes.

You should also consider fitted shoes, as some footwear that slips can put you at a higher danger of slipping or tripping. Try opting for shoes with straps or shoelaces instead.

When coming into your home from outside, remember to wipe your shoes on a mat to clean off any water and mud, as wet shoes on indoor flooring can be very slippery. Any welcome mats and rugs you own should also be fitted with non-slip backing, so they don't move around when you walk across them.

Within your home, you may find anti-slip mats can reduce your risk of slipping or falling throughout the year, and can be a good safety measure during cold months when house tiles can be cold or damp from the moisture in the air.

You can also install grab rails or ramps in your home or outside your home to give you extra leverage and control when moving around. This can be incredibly beneficial if the entrance of your home has steps or a ramp. Additionally, there are anti-slip plates that can be installed on home ramps as a safety home modification.

When you are around the home or in the community, watch out for paths that are covered with moss, fallen leaves and slime, as it can make any garden or park path very slippery. Try to avoid walking, or using a mobility aid, through flooding or puddles.

It can be hard to see how deep a puddle or flood water is, and it may be hiding dangerous objects or debris until its surface that could be a tripping hazard and cause you an injury.

If the flooding is also fast-moving, this can also lead to traction issues while walking or potentially sweep you away in the current, so avoid crossing flooding at all costs.

If you live in an area in Australia that experiences very cold winter events, like snow, you may need to look out for paths or driveways that are iced over.

Lastly, when traversing outside, be aware that winter days can be much darker than in the summer. If you go out, try taking walks on well-lit paths or if at home turn on lights in dark areas in and around your house.

These safety tips can make a huge difference in reducing your likelihood of slips, trips and falls.

How do you stay safe during the wet winter months? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Keeping protected from winter sicknesses
Top health concerns for older people
How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls
Staying safe during long heatwaves

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