Sidewalk Safety for Senior Pedestrians

With Spring weather in the air, now is the perfect time for New York City seniors to get outside and enjoy a sunny walk around the neighborhood.   While there’s few things more inviting than a balmy April afternoon after a long winter, it is critical that anyone out for a walk, especially older adults, take steps to ensure their safety.

In this week’s blog, we look at some simple guidelines and advice to ensure you are confident and safe every step of your journey.

  1. Know your body

Our bodies’ capabilities often change with age, especially after a long winter with little outside activity. When you first start the “walking season,” aim for short jaunts around your block and adjacent streets. Try to consider how stable you feel, how many blocks you can comfortably travel and make note of any changes in nearby sidewalks that may have occurred over the winter.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out SelectCare’s foot health blog for advice on how you can better preserve your feet.

  1. Stretch!

Like any other exercise, it is important to limber up with some light stretching before stepping out your door.

You should always follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to stretching and physical activity, but if you are under no specific doctor’s orders, try the following:

First, sit in a chair, raise your feet slightly and gently rotate your feet at the ankles, making small circles. Next, gently bend one leg at a time at the knee. Finally, stand up and slowly bend at the waist to help stretch your back.

Remember, stretching is important and can feel great before a walk, but you should never push your body too far. Avoid stretching so deeply as to cause pain.

  1. Dress for success

Whether you plan a walk down the block or across town, always try to dress and plan appropriately:

  • Pick a pair of shoes that fit your feet comfortably, have healthy treads with good grip, and can easily be tied or otherwise tightened comfortably around your feet. Try to avoid heels or backless shoes, as they contribute to many falls.
  • Take note of the weather and plan accordingly. Bring water on hot days, an umbrella and boots if rain is in the forecast, and consider brighter (or even reflective) clothing if you plan on taking a walk during dusk or the evening hours.
  • If you use a cane, walker or other assistive device, the Spring season is a great time to check for damage and bring the item in for service or replacement if it no longer offers you the support you need.
  1. Take breaks as needed and pace yourself

Even on quick trips to the store, it is critical to listen to your body and take breaks as needed. If you plan on walking up a steep incline or feel a little winded after a long stretch of green lights, finding a stoop, bus stop, bench or other temporary seat can mean the difference between a pleasant stroll and a tiring hike.

  1. Develop safe walking routes

While it always helps to watch where you walk, getting into the habit of finding pedestrian friendly streets with smooth, even paving, angled curb cuts and limited obstructions can really pay off in the long run.

Even if it adds an extra block or two to your walks, favoring well-maintained, safer sidewalks lower your risk of falling or twisting an ankle significantly.

  1. Take extra care at intersections

Intersections and street crossings are the scene of more dangerous crashes, collisions and falls than any other part of the New York City streetscape, so particular care should be taken at crossings.

  • Some streets have a small natural slope that can be difficult to see when you are focused on crossing lights and traffic, causing a significant number of falls. Rather than rushing to cross upon walking up to a green light, try to wait for a brand new green light signal before crossing any street.
  • Even if you have the light, it is critical that you look both ways and decide for yourself whether or not it is safe to cross. Do not follow the lead of other pedestrians, as they might not have looked themselves, or might plan to dash across the street faster than you can safely travel.
  • When waiting for the light, stand on the curb, rather than the street, as this will help protect you from turning vehicles, especially busses and trucks with wider turning angles.
  • Listen for sirens, loud engines or other signs of fast-moving traffic before attempting to cross. If you think a driver is moving too quickly or expect an emergency vehicle is nearby, consider waiting until the vehicle is past your position before crossing.

With these tips in mind, we at SelectCare wish everyone in our community a happy, safe and active Spring season!

If you or a loved one struggle to remain active in the community, now might be the best time to call SelectCare, where our team of dedicated home health care experts and caregivers have helped New Yorkers lead happier, healthier lives in their long-time homes for nearly 35 year.

To learn more about how SelectCare helps, request a free in-home health care guide today!