Adults over the age of 65 make up approximately 16% of the total Dutch population, due to the increased life expectancy together with an influx of immigrants.
In our modern times, it has become increasingly important for seniors to hold onto their independence for as long as possible. One way to do so is through regular physical activity. Walking is the most common activity among adults older than 65, making it imperative that safe outdoor spaces exist for this purpose. All seniors, regardless of whether they are living alone or in a care facility, need to engage in some form of outdoor activity and enjoy the numerous health benefits of being outside.
When it comes to being active outside, the greatest deterring factor for many seniors is the fear of injury. Falling and breaking a hip can result in a once-independent individual being forced to move into a care facility. Uneven roads, driveways and walking surfaces, high curbs and a lack of visibility all pose immense threats to a vulnerable individual looking to spend some time outdoors. In order for the elderly to feel safe, individuals and communities need to create safe areas where seniors can venture outdoors without fearing for their safety or health.
Safe outdoor spaces for seniors at home.
There are numerous steps that can be taken to ensure that the outdoor area surrounding a senior’s home is as safe and accessible as possible. Easy-to-reach handrails are an absolute must for outdoor steps and are recommended around patio and deck areas as well to eliminate any nasty falls. Painting the edges of steps in a contrasting color will make them a lot easier to traverse while the addition of non-slip strips will reduce the chance of slipping, especially in wet weather. Protruding tree roots can cause uneven driveways and pathways, both of which are an accident waiting to happen. Remove any such roots and repair any damaged concreted areas that could pose a fall risk. While Haarlem does not enjoy exorbitant amounts of snow, even the occasional frosty spell can leave the ground surface extremely slippery and of equal danger to children and adults alike. Ice melt and cat litter are both very effective ways to provide grip on snow although it is recommended to avoid potentially slippery areas rather than risk falling.
Ensuring safety in public places.
Curbs pose a huge safety risk to seniors as it is difficult to judge their height, especially if they have cutaways for bikes. It is of vital importance to take the greatest of care when stepping up or down a curb, checking the height before doing so. When walking through Haarlem or visiting one of the numerous beautiful parks it is important to take certain precautions to stay safe. Always wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that provide ample grip without compromising your agility. Do not try to navigate your way over dangerous terrain that includes areas scattered with litter, badly-lit staircases and pathways and uneven roads and sidewalks.
When venturing outdoors try to always take a friend or family member with you and even when you don’t, make sure to inform someone of where you are going and when you are planning to return home. As much as we want to avoid any mishaps from occurring they cannot always be avoided and it is important that someone will know to come looking for you should the inevitable occur.