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Street Smarts for Seniors
Walking is the most basic form of
transportation. It's also an enjoyable exercise. Walking keeps you fit.
It's good for your heart, and has many other health benefits. Best of
all, just about anyone can do it.
Transport Canada statistics for
2004 show that seniors account for over 37 percent of all pedestrian
fatalities. Out of 367 pedestrians killed that year, 136 were age 65 or
Older pedestrians are at higher risk of falling or being
hit by a vehicle, because mobility and perception deteriorate as part
of the aging process. An injury can be more serious and recovery takes
longer. But staying cooped up at home is no solution. In most cases,
the benefits of the exercise, independence and social activities
associated with walking outweigh the risks.
Most pedestrian injuries are preventable. But pedestrian safety must be addressed as a shared responsibility:
- Personal safety precautions;
- Defensive drivers; and
- A pedestrian-friendly environment.
As Canada’s population ages, this issue is becoming more and more important.
How to prevent a mishap
injuries to older pedestrians occur in broad daylight, in familiar
surroundings. The Canada Safety Council recommends the following
simple, common sense precautions:
- First and foremost, look
after yourself - exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the
week, eat right, have routine eye and ear examinations, and take
medications exactly as prescribed.
- Always wear comfortable, well-fitting walking shoes or boots, with low heels and firm soles.
- Use a cane for extra balance. Make sure it is adjusted for your height.
- In winter conditions, wear ice grips and use a cane with a pick.
- Carry as little as possible. Take advantage of home deliveries, use a bundle cart or get help.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Plan your trip so you don’t have to hurry. Never try to beat the traffic - or the light.
- Look out for all vehicles, including cars, bicycles and motorcycles.
- Watch out for hazards. For example, be on the alert for cracks and curbs.
- Avoid walking at rush hour, after dark, or before ice and snow have been cleared.
- Cross the street only at a crosswalk or intersection.
Drivers are part of the solution
must realize they have a responsibility for the safety of pedestrians.
To start, observe all the rules of the road. Drivers who run red
lights, disregard stop signs and exceed the speed limit endanger
everyone on the road. Cyclists absolutely do not belong on the sidewalk.
according to the Canada Safety Council, motorists must go beyond the
letter of the law by driving defensively. That means driving to prevent
collisions despite the actions of others and the surrounding
conditions. Eighty-five per cent of all collisions are preventable
through defensive driving.
The physical environment
neighborhoods have a high density of older people, who walk from their
home to seniors’ centres, medical offices, stores and other facilities.
These areas need special attention.
- The biggest complaint is
traffic lights that don’t allow enough time for slower pedestrians to
make it across the street. Extended timing makes a big difference.
design, repair and maintenance must be a priority. Uneven surfaces and
unexpected obstacles of any kind can cause serious falls.
and snow removal is critical. Either the municipality itself does all
the work or it must enforce a by-law that property owners clear the
- Curb ramps allow access for individuals with less mobility, as well as scooters and wheel chairs.
are many other measures a municipality can take to improve pedestrian
safety. For example, refuge islands on wide streets permit slower
pedestrians to cross in two stages; and audible signals tell people
with limited vision when they can cross.
The Canada Safety
Council recommends that local governments develop an integrated plan
for traffic safety which takes into account the community as a whole.
The needs of older pedestrians must be a key part of this plan.
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