Take a look at the 14 day forecast, and you’ll see most days will be well above the 90 degree mark. According The University of Chicago Medical Center, 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States in 2014 were among individuals aged 65 or above. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to higher temperatures and direct sunlight. The combination of the summer heat waves and the added desire for socially distanced visits outside with family and friends can make for a dangerous situation for seniors. Here are some tips for navigating the summer safely.
When the temperature rise over 80 degrees, seniors should heed the following advice:
1. Stay Hydrated: The single most important thing that seniors can do during warmer weather is to stay hydrated. Water and fruit juices that are low in sugar help to replenish the body of important vitamins and fluids that are lost during the perspiration process.
2. Wear Sunscreen and Eye Protection: The number of melanoma diagnoses in seniors has increased dramatically as adults ages 65+ continue to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. Our skin’s ability to attract T cells to damaged or burned areas diminishes over time which necessitates the need to protect it with plenty of sunscreen. Protecting the eyes is also crucial as they can be damaged by direct sunlight.
3. Protect Your Head with Wide-Brimmed Hats: One of the first areas where skin cancers develop are on the ears, neck, and the top of the head. As we age, the hair follicles begin to thin which removes the natural barrier to direct sunlight. Wearing wide-brimmed hats will protect all of these problem areas.
4. Appropriate Attire: Loose fitting clothing made out of natural fibers such as cotton allows the skin to breath and cool itself naturally. Synthetic or tight fitting clothing restricts that breathing process and can increase the body’s temperature.
5. Avoid Mid-Day Hours: The hours between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. are the times during which the sun is most intense. Older adults should avoid strenuous activities outside during this time period in order to minimize heatstroke or other heat related illnesses.
6. Monitor Heat Index: The heat index is the calculation of moisture or humidity in the air as it relates to the evaporation process caused by the sun. A high heat index can limit the body’s ability to perspire and cool itself. Monitoring both the temperature and the heat index will
help protect seniors from heat exhaustion.
7. Low Intensity Exercise: Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is important for adults ages 65 and above but the summer months create challenges to exercising outdoors. Seniors should limit their exercise activities to air-conditioned spaces which observe strict COVID prevention protocols. Many gyms are opening at 50% capacity with screening before entry and stringent cleaning procedures in place. If exercise is conducted outside, it should be a low intensity activity such as light gardening or walking near areas where they can quickly seek water and shelter if needed.
8. Apply Bug Spray: Mosquitos and ticks can carry a variety of diseases which are harder for the immune system to fight in older adults. Wearing bug spray can help protect seniors from unwanted illnesses.
9. Inform Neighbors, Friends, and Family: It may seem inconvenient, but seniors should inform neighbors, friends, and/or family members if they decide to undertake outdoor activities during the summer. Having someone check in on them will provide a safety net in
case anything happens and will provide a certain level of comfort to loved ones.
10. Know the Signs: Seniors should know the signs of heatstroke which can take the form of muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Experiencing any of these signs should alert seniors that they need to seek shelter in an air-conditioned environment and rehydrate.
By keeping these tips in mind, seniors will be able to enjoy an active and healthy summer. Stay safe!