September has quickly slipped by and suddenly the evening temperatures have dropped and the feel of fall is distinctly in the air; weather reports may even include a risk for frost overnight. All these seasonal shifts are a signal to homeowners that the time is now to start fall cleanup and complete outdoor maintenance before the snow flies. Older adults living independently may need help to prepare for winter and many communities groups offer assistance to seniors with leaf raking, gutter cleaning or other tasks that will prepare their homes for the colder weather.
If older adults need help with yard work this fall and don’t have nearby loved-ones to pitch in, many organizations, places of worship and community groups coordinate volunteers to help seniors complete necessary work to keep them safer at home. The Volunteer Center at the United Way coordinates volunteers with seniors who need help preparing for winter without risking an injury. Jobs like cleaning out gutters can also prevent slip and falls during the colder months when wet pathways can freeze and become icy and a danger for older adults.
If you are an older adult who is still able to do most of the typical fall cleanup tasks themselves, it is important to take a few precautions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 42 million people visit the emergency room each year for yard work-related injuries. Raking, cleaning gutters and trimming back trees and shrubs can cause muscle and back strain as well as risk other injuries.
Tips to Avoid Fall Cleanup Injuries
- Take frequent breaks; warm up and cool down with stretches
- Stay hydrated with plenty of water
- Dress in light layers that can be removed if you get too hot; long sleeves and pants will protect against scratches and irritants
- Use safety glasses, gloves and other protective gear when appropriate
- Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots with grippy soles.
- Remember to bend at the knee to pick things up, don’t overfill bags making them too heavy
- Use ladders carefully, being sure the ladder is stable and locked into place