This article provided by Comfort Keepers, an independent caregiving provider in the Masonic Value Network
From picnics and barbecues to baseball games and festivals, summer often presents numerous opportunities to spend quality time with friends and family – all under the warm sunny skies. For many seniors, summer is the perfect chance to get out and make connections with new people and strengthen existing relationships. But while the nice weather may be enticing, the excessive heat that comes with the sun’s powerful rays can be life-threatening.Those of all ages should take proper precautions in the summer, but seniors especially need to safeguard themselves from the threat of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration.
In this article, we’ll explore what makes seniors more sensitive to the sun, and look at ways they can reduce their risk of the aforementioned conditions, so that they can enjoy a relaxing summer.
Changes as We Age
As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult for our bodies to adjust to shifting temperatures. For one, our ability to perspire or sweat – arguably our primary heat regulation mechanism – loses efficiency the older we get. Other factors that influence heat sensitivity include decreased blood circulation, certain prescription medications (particularly diuretics or those taken for hypertension), and being overweight or underweight. These factors can all contribute to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
One of the other major threats that warm weather can bring about is dehydration, when water/fluid loss is greater than water/fluid intake. Similar to how we don’t perspire as well as we used to, our body also has a harder time conserving water the older we get. Seniors’ sense of thirst also diminishes. If a senior relies solely on thirst to stay hydrated, his or her risk of becoming dehydrated can increase significantly. Dehydration that goes unchecked can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, reduced blood volume, urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney failure, and even death.
Tips for Safely Enjoying Summer
As you can surmise, the threats are real and the consequences are quite serious when it comes to summer heat. However, it’s important to note that these conditions are not unique to seniors and certainly don’t represent an inevitable part of aging. Seniors can still experience a fun, enjoyable summer if they follow a few simple tips:
- Check the Forecast and Timing – First and foremost, know what to expect before going outside. If the
temperature is going to be in the upper 90s or over 100 degrees, it’s probably best just to stay inside. Even if it’s lower, seniors should try to avoid going out when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest, between 10AM and 3PM. If they must be out during this time, it’s important to find spots that offer shade or shelter from the sun.
- Dress Appropriately – The summer heat can be especially overwhelming if you’re wearing the wrong
clothes. The key is to dress in clothing that is lightweight, breathable, and light in color. Loosely woven or ventilated hats can also help shield the face from the sun’s rays. Although not clothing-related, it’s vital that seniors also wear sunscreen when going outside, as prolonged sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.
- Stay Hydrated – Seniors who plan on spending hours outside should ensure that they have adequate water for the length of their time outdoors. Throughout the course of any given day, seniors should drink at least eight 8-ounce cups of water, but they’ll want to increase their intake if they plan on being in the warm weather. Above all, it’s imperative that they don’t wait until they’re thirsty to drink, but rather stick to a drinking schedule or continually take small sips. Sports drinks, which can help replenish sodium or potassium, can also be good for reducing the risk of dehydration. Caffeine and alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs.
- Take a Break – When it comes to spending time with others during the summer, it’s common for us to push ourselves more than we usually would in order to soak up the sun. Seniors are certainly no exception, but they should be sure to take breaks often throughout the day. If they aren’t near their home, seniors can go to any public, air-conditioned building – whether it’s a shopping mall or a restaurant – to get away from the heat.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
Summer should never be viewed as a time of restriction. Seniors should be able to experience all the fun, laughter, and excitement that comes along with summer – but in a smart, safe way. At Comfort Keepers®, we can help make that happen. Our professional caregivers can see that seniors are staying hydrated, taking breaks from the heat, and taking all the proper precautions. Comfort Keepers can also provide transportation to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, or wherever senior clients may need to go. Call (888) 778-9619 to find a local Comfort Keepers’ office.
It’s estimated that, from 1999 to 2009, approximately 40% of all heat-related deaths in the United States were of those 65 and older.
AgingCare.com “Protecting Seniors from Dangerous Summer Heat” by June Fletch. Web. 2018.
SeniorAdvisor.com “Summer Safety Tips for Seniors” by Kristen Hicks. Web. 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Heat and Older Adults.” Web. 2017.
Drip Drop ORS Dehydration Relief. “Seniors and Heat Illness: Why the Elderly Are More Affected by the Heat.” Web. 2014.