How to Make Sure Older Friends and Relatives are Safe this Winter

Fall and winter in the northwest come with inevitable safety risks for everyone, from darker days to slick sidewalks to trecherous driving conditions. These changes can be especially dangerous for older adults, who are more likely to have reduced mobility, vision loss and other physical challenges.

KIRO radio interview
Idabelle Fosse and Tanya McGee, members of our Pathways Information & Assistance department, at KIRO 97.3

Idabelle Fosse and Tanya McGee, members of our Pathways Information & Assistance department, recently talked to KIRO Radio’s Home Matters about how to prepare for aging at home and help others stay in their homes as long as possible. They mentioned that when people see older friends or relatives during the holidays, they are often struck by changes that occurred since they last met. In a year or even a matter of months, someone might have developed significant health issues. Or, his or her home may have fallen into disrepair, making it unsafe.

They recommended using the following questions as a “checklist” when visiting with older friends or relatives.

  • As you arrive at someone’s home, note the lighting. Is it sufficiently bright on the sidewalk, walkway and doorstep? Are there any dark spots where additional lighting could be installed?
  • Rain, snow and ice can create dangerously slick walkways. Are there adequate rails in place for people to grab onto as they walk in and out, or climb the front steps?
  • How safe is the sidewalk? Are there areas where it’s uneven, or where roots or weeds could cause someone to trip?
  • Is the porch stable and clean, or is it rotting in any areas?
  • If you haven’t seen someone in a long time, note your first reaction. Does he or she seems different from the last time you saw him? Is he disoriented or confused? Does his home seem more cluttered than before?

McGee recommended utilizing King County’s One Step Ahead Fall Prevention Program to recieve a free home assesment.

If you have any questions about aging, call Pathways Information & Assistance at 206.448.3110. Or, email A highly-trained volunteer will guide you through your questions and help you navigate local resources.