Welcome to summer! Even as we bask in the longer, sun-filled days, we need to be mindful of the risks that hot weather brings to the older population.
Senior citizens are more subject to heat stress for three reasons:
- As we age, our bodies do not adapt as quickly to changes in temperature
- Seniors are more likely than the younger population to have a chronic medical condition that impedes their body’s response to heat
- Seniors are more likely than younger people to be taking medications that affect the body’s ability to adapt to higher temperatures
But that doesn’t mean seniors can’t have fun in the sun. Follow these senior-friendly tips to stay cool and safe in the summer:
- Spend time in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible. Even a few hours at a senior center, a library, or a shopping mall will help keep your body cool.
- While fans might keep you cool on warm days, they will not do the job as the temperature climbs into the 80s. If you do not have access to air-conditioning, call your local health department.
- Wear light, loose clothing.
- Avoid excessive cooking, which will heat up your home.
- Eat lighter foods. Heavy, hot foods heat up your body. Take advantage of the hot days to enjoy refreshing salads and other cold foods.
- Enjoy cool showers and baths.
Stay Outside — With Care
- Use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat if going outdoors.
- Schedule outdoor activities for cooler times of the day, such as the early morning and evening hours.
- Enjoy the beautiful warm weather, but stay in shaded areas if spending extended time outside.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
- Allow extra time for rest after being outdoors.
- You will need to drink more water than usual to stay hydrated in the summer.
- Snack on seasonal fruits and vegetables that have high water content, such as watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, berries, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
- If you are taking diuretics (water pills) or have been told by your doctor to reduce the amount of water you drink, ask them how much you should be drinking.
- Wear sunscreen whenever you go out.
- Be aware of heat warnings, and other weather-related updates.
- Have a buddy who checks on you, and who you check on. (Good advice all year round!)
- If you show any signs of heat stress, such as headaches, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical help immediately.
- Keep the Center for Disease Control’s Heat-Related Illnesses chart handy, in order to be aware of the different levels of heat related illnesses, and what to do for them. You can find it here.
Take full advantage of the glory of summer, but be sure to take care of yourself at the same time!