Summertime is an ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you’re lounging at the pool or firing up the grill. However, the heat and sun can pose serious health hazards for seniors if they don’t take the proper precautions.
As bodies age, they become less efficient at regulating temperature due to a weakening of the central nervous system. This means that seniors are more susceptible to a host of heat-related illnesses, from heat stroke to heat exhaustion.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that since 1999, people age 65 and older have been several times more likely to die from heat-related cardiovascular disease than the general population.
If your parents or loved ones are soaking up the sun this summer, be sure to keep these senior safety tips in mind.
Senior Safety Tip #1: Stay Indoors During Peak Sun Hours
The sun’s UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so whenever possible, avoid being outdoors during these hours. If seniors must be out, it’s best that they wear light, long-sleeved coverings to protect the skin from prolonged direct contact with the sun. It’s also a good idea for seniors to take frequent breaks in the shade.
Senior Safety Tip #2: Select the Right Sunscreen
Not all sunscreens are created equal. The American Cancer Society recommends choosing a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 with broad-spectrum protection, which protects against UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and even more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating.
Senior Safety Tip #3: Drink Plenty of Fluids
During the heat of summer, it’s easy to become dehydrated—even if you think you’re drinking enough water. Seniors should always have a water bottle handy and should drink up even before going outdoors. Aim to drink six to eight cups of water a day—and more if you plan to spend time outdoors. It’s easier to maintain fluid balance coming from a well-hydrated state.
Some other senior safety tips for staying hydrated include sipping electrolyte-replacing beverages and snacking on water-rich fresh fruits, including watermelon and peaches.
Senior Safety Tip #4: Exercise Smarter
Seniors who enjoy a morning jog or an evening stroll should be mindful of their exercise routines during the summer by wearing the proper attire and drinking more water than they normally would. Remind your parents and loved ones to also keep track of the time and consider getting their outdoor exercise during times of the day when the sun isn’t at its peak.
Senior Safety Tip #5: Dress Appropriately
During the summer months, seniors should stock their closets with light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that will help them feel cooler and more comfortable. It’s also important for seniors to protect their eyes from the sun’s UV rays by wearing a pair of sunglasses when they’re outside. The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends choosing sunglasses with anti-reflective lens coatings and an amber tint to reduce glare.
Senior Safety Tip #6: Monitor the Forecast
The temperature can change significantly depending on the day’s weather. While an afternoon thunderstorm may drop the temperature, you don’t want your parents to be caught off guard on a day that reaches triple digits. Always know the forecast and what to expect from the weather. When the heat becomes extreme, seniors should take some breaks indoors to keep cool.
Senior Safety Tip #7: Be Mindful About Medication
Do you know the medications your parents take? Their prescriptions may make them more sensitive to the sun. If you’re planning on spending time outdoors, check with your parents’ doctor or pharmacist about whether they need to take extra precautions. You probably won’t have to eliminate outdoor activities, but you should be aware of any potential problems that might come with time in the sun.
Senior Safety Tip #8: Know the Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses
It doesn’t take long for seniors to fall victim to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. WebMD notes some common symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, nausea, headache, and excessive thirst. Signs of a heat stroke include nausea and vomiting, rapid heart rate, confusion, and convulsions. If your parents show any of these symptoms, it’s critical to seek immediate medical care.
Help Seniors Enjoy Summer Safely
There’s much to enjoy during the sunshine-soaked days of summer. By following the senior safety tips above, you can help your loved ones safely savor every moment.