Take a look at the forecast for the summer, and you’ll see that most days are projected to be well over 90 degrees. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 40% of heat related fatalities in the United States from 2004-2018 were among individuals 65 years or older. As we age, our bodies become more vulnerable to the negative impacts of higher temperatures and direct sunlight. The combination of the summer heat waves and the added desire for visits outside with family and friends can make for a dangerous situation for seniors.
Here are our top 10 tips for navigating this summer safely:
- 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.
- 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 damage by direct sunlight.
- Protect your head with wide-brimmed hats. One of the first areas where skin cancers develop are on the ears, neck, and 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.
- Appropriate attire. Loose fitting clothing made out of natural fibers such as cotton allows the skin to breathe and cool itself naturally. Synthetic or tight fitting clothing restricts that breathing process and continues to increase the body’s temperature.
- Avoid mid-day hours. The hours between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. are when 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.
- 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.
- Low intensity exercise. Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is important or adults ages 65 and above, but the summer months create challenges to exercising outdoors. Seniors should limit their exercise activities to air-conditioned spaces. 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.
- Apply bug spray. Mosquitoes and ticks can carry a variety of diseases which are harder for the immune system to fight in older adults. Wearing bug spay can help protect seniors from unwanted illnesses.
- Inform neighbors, friends, and family. It may seem inconvenient, but seniors should inform someone 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.
- Knowing 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!
To join us for a safe, summer activity, contact the community nearest you for a visit.