The summer sun has begun to shine in the United States. While naturally, this is an exciting time for children ready to take on the beach during their summer breaks, with the heat estimated to hit record-breaking highs, we must follow safety protocols and remember that the sun is something we need to treat with respect. Summer heat and a high UV index can be hazardous for everyone, but especially for our senior citizens. As age-related changes impact the skin and circulatory system, our senior population is more likely to be harmed by the heat during the summer months.
We often forget seniors cannot endure the heat as much as younger people. As we age, our bodies do not process the temperature changes as efficiently as they did when we were younger. While out and about in the summer days, here are some tips that will help our seniors enjoy the summer sun just as much as anyone else:
- Stay Hydrated: During hot days, the body continuously loses fluids through sweat, and it’s important to drink the suggested amount of water. According to John Hopkins, people over the age of 60 are particularly susceptible to dehydration. On average, a person should drink eight to ten glasses of water a day just to stay hydrated, according to the Center for Disease Control. If you spend more time in the heat than usual, the recommendation is one cup of water every 15- 20 minutes. Drinking water at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking a lot of water at once more infrequently. In addition to water, people can consume foods with high water content, such as popsicles, Jell-O, diced fruit cups, apple sauce, Italian ices, and some fruits.
- Keep Cool: While hydration is a great way to stay cool, there are other techniques to chill the body and avoid dehydration during the summer months. A cool towel or wet towelette on the neck or chest can help when you are outside and can’t be in the air conditioning. Another way to cool down is to stay close to the water – dipping into the water at the beach or pool every hour or so will assist in keeping your body temperature low.
- Avoid Mid-Day Sun: Bei an early bird or night owl. The UV index is at its highest between 11 am-3 pm. You have a higher chance of succumbing to heat exhaustion or heat stroke during these hours. “Take walks early in the morning because after that, it is scorching,” Danielle Capizzi, a nurse at an assisted living facility in Naples, stresses. We all want to be enjoying the day; however, staying away from these peak hours is highly recommended for seniors.
- Exercise is Key: You might be tempted to stay indoors with the cool air conditioning blowing, but health officials say it is vital to get out and keep your body moving. “Swimming would be a good one,” Capizzi said. “It’s getting the fresh air and exercise at the same time.” She suggests trying some water aerobics or using weights in the pool. Plan your exercise early or late in the day – avoid the mid-day.
- Wear Protective Clothing: Wearing the proper articles of clothing helps keep you cool during the summer months while also protecting you from the sun. It is no secret that sunburns can be challenging to deal with. Nowadays, summer clothing and hats are quick-dry and also have UV protection. A sun-safe hat with flaps protecting the whole face, head and back of neck and ears is even better. It is also essential to protect your eyes with sunglasses. The most critical aspect of sunglasses is the protection from UV rays. Eyelid skin is the thinnest skin on your body, so that it can be at a greater risk of damage. Look for 100% UV protection glasses or polarized sunglasses. Those with a wrap-around style can reduce the number of sun rays reaching your eyes. Wearing a hat or staying in the shade is also essential when outdoors. This can prevent sunburn, diminish the risk of skin cancers and minimize sun damage to your body.
- Eat Right: During the warmer months, it is vital to track what you eat and ensure these foods contain the proper nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are high in liquid which helps keep your body hydrated. It is also easier to digest and will not keep you from feeling sluggish. Eating a heavier meal with lots of meat increases the pressure on the body since it takes more digestive power to digest a protein.
- Avoid Heat Exhaustion: Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, and take proper steps to address it. Deputy Chief Eric Madden with the Bonita Springs, FL Fire Department, says this is very important so you can stop it from progressing into heat stroke. “Heat exhaustion is easy to treat,” he said. “It is just cooling people down, bringing them into the air conditioning. When you get them into heat stroke, that is a lot more dangerous. It affects vital organs, the heart, and the brain. That is why it is so important to recognize this.” Madden said the signs to look for are dizziness and weakness. “If you feel off, you are probably starting to get dehydrated,” Madden concluded. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are common, especially in our senior population. Madden says in the summer, they get emergency calls about this daily.
Following these few steps will help you enjoy summer with fewer safety concerns.
If you have more questions or are looking for senior-friendly summer activities in your area, contact your local Oasis Senior Advisor today!