We may have successfully weathered the holiday season with all its excesses, but now we are deeply entrenched in the “season of snow removal”. Normally I manage this task without too much difficulty, but unfortunately my snow blower will not start this season and I have been unable to get it repaired. Now I like to think that I am in fairly good health and physically fit, but there is nothing like 8 inches of snow and a relatively large driveway to dispel that delusion. My thoughts immediately turned to all the seniors out there who would be struggling to clear their steps, sidewalks, and driveways – snow shoveling is a dangerous activity for older folks and I need to remind them of that. So, if you are a senior and have to shovel your own snow, here are some tips to avoid snow shoveling disasters.
• Shoveling snow is a very physical activity and as with any exercise, seniors should begin with a 5 -10 minute warm-up. Use slow, gentle exercise to increase blood flow and flexibility to the muscles and joints that will be used.
• Dress appropriately. Wearing layers will allow you to adjust to the temperature outside. Be sure to dress warmly enough and cover your head, face and hands when outside for prolonged periods of time. If you become overheated, take a break and cool down.
• Pick the right waterproof boots. You need to protect your feet from the cold as well as keep them dry. You will also want to have non-skid boots or use ice grips to guard against falls on slick snow or hidden ice.
• Pick a small shovel. Selecting a smaller shovel means lighter loads of snow which can help prevent injury to the body by creating less strain.
• Stay hydrated. Water plays an important role when people exercise so have a water bottle handy just inside the garage or house and take a few sips after every 15 minutes of shoveling snow.
• Shovel frequently. If we are in for a big storm, go outside and shovel every time the snow fall is about 2 inches. This will help lessen the load and make snow shoveling more manageable.
• Lift with the legs, not the back. Make sure your knees are bending and straightening to lift the shovel instead of leaning forward and straightening up using your back.
• Push the snow instead of lifting and throwing the snow. Separate your hands on the shovel. By creating space between your hands, you can increase your leverage on the shovel to make it easier.
• Avoid caffeine and nicotine before shoveling. Caffeine and nicotine act as stimulants to our bodies by increasing the heart rate and constricting blood vessels which puts more strain on the heart.
• Know your limits and know when to quit. If you are getting frail or are unsteady on your feet it is time to hang up the shovel. A fall or injury would be very dangerous to your overall health and well-being.
Having said all this, it is still very difficult to find someone to assist with snow removal. CCSH offers this type of service, but we depend on folks who are self-employed and willing to register with our agency. If you are interested in making some extra money and would like to help our seniors maintain their independence, call Sarah at 613-969-0130 and she will explain how our system works.