Most people look forward to the carefree days of summer all year long. Catching up with friends and family, appreciating the extended daylight, and engaging in outdoor activities all make summer a special time of year.
While there are many things to do outside, gardening is a hobby many seniors enjoy during the warm weather months. Growing flowers or vegetables is a great summer activity. A walk through the local park or a picnic are a few more fun ways to be outside. Whatever way you choose to spend your time outdoors, your body, mind, and spirit will reap the rewards of time spent with nature.
As we head into the warmest months of the year, it’s important to be informed about summer safety measures for older adults.
Heat Sensitivity and Older Adults
Older adults can be especially sensitive to the heat. High temperatures can be deadly if not taken seriously. Some seniors have medical conditions, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, that can worsen when it’s hot. For others, heat sensitivity may be a side effect of a medication.
Another risk is skin sensitivity in the heat. The skin commonly becomes thinner and more fragile with age. That puts older adults at increased risk for sunburn or sun poisoning.
Skin cancer is also more common among seniors and something to be on guard for all year, but especially in the summer. The incidences of melanoma continue to increase every year.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps that the older adults in your life can take to stay safe when the mercury rises.
5 Summer Safety Tips for Seniors
- Stay hydrated: As we age, the body has a more difficult time adjusting to fluctuations in the temperature and heat index. This can increase the risk for dehydration. Talk with your physician about how much water you should drink each day. While the standard recommendation is 8 glasses, some health conditions may require more or less water consumption. If you just don’t like the taste of water, try adding lemon, cucumber, or berries to give it some flavor. Food choices can also help pump up hydration. Melons, leafy greens, celery, apples, and tomatoes all have a high-water content.
- Apply sunscreen: If you are like many seniors who grew up not wearing sunscreen, this habit takes some getting used to. Anytime you will be spending time outdoors or riding in a car, you need to apply sunscreen. Every 2 to 4 hours, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50 should be applied—and reapplied.
- Protect your face and neck: Not surprisingly, the face and back of the neck are two places on the body where skin cancer develops first. That’s often because people forget to apply sunscreen there. Experiment with different types of sunscreen, such as a spray bottle or a solid stick, to see if one works better for hard to reach areas. Also, wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shield your neck and face.
- Wear sunglasses: While sunglasses have become a fashion statement, they have a much more vital role to play. Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s dangerous rays. Researchers say that wearing a quality pair of sunglasses can also help to prevent cancerous growths in the eyes and cataracts. Use these tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology to choose sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays.
- Use bug spray: Insects are more than just a summer annoyance to be tolerated. Some bugs come with serious health risks, including Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Invest in a quality bug spray and wear it anytime you are outdoors. Clothing can also add an extra layer of protection. Skip the shorts and short sleeves and opt for long-sleeved tops and pants in a natural fabric to keep you from getting too hot. Also, remember to routinely check your clothing, skin, and hair for ticks.
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