Summer is here…a time for fun, vacation, and relaxation. But along with summer comes the heat. Though we all need to take precautions when temperatures rise, seniors especially must be extra careful. Whether staying home or traveling this season, these tips are sure to make your summer a safe one.
Rising temperatures don’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. Look for ways to get moving in temperature controlled environments. Many gyms and community centers offer water aerobics and other exercise classes specifically for seniors. Many indoor malls open early, before the shops are ready for business, for walking groups who prefer the safety of indoor exercise. If you prefer to be outdoors, try to keep activities limited to morning or evening when it’s not quite as hot.
Whether coming or going, keep in mind that the temperature inside cars is always higher than what you read on the thermometer. You may want to start the car, turn on the A/C, and let your vehicle cool down for a few minutes while waiting inside your home before going anywhere.
As age increases, the body’s ability to remain hydrated decreases. Though the importance of staying hydrated is well-known, many people are unaware of the best ways to get the most hydration. For instance, drinking water when thirsty is not enough, as many seniors may not be as aware of their own thirst as they once were. Keeping a water bottle within reach at all times is both convenient and a good way to gauge that enough water is being consumed. Ensuring adequate sodium and potassium intake is also very important as these minerals are lost through sweat and must be replaced. Eating light, cool meals containing plenty of fruits and vegetables will also help in staying hydrated.
Protection against the Environment
The elderly can be especially susceptible to environmental concerns in summer—not only heat exposure, but sun and pests as well. Seniors are more prone to heat stroke, West Nile Virus, and other environmental concerns. The good news is proper attire can be an effective barrier against these potential hazards. For starters, lightweight clothing made of natural material, such as cotton, can protect against sunburn and mosquito bites, as well as help to prevent moisture loss in higher temperatures. Good quality sunglasses are also essential for preventing vision loss caused by UV rays, whether protecting against further damage, or preventing the start of damage. Also, don’t forget your hat!
Though important at any time, the summer months are possibly the most crucial for staying connected at all times. Seniors living alone should get to know their neighbors. Not only is the extra socialization beneficial, but having friends close by to check in regularly also improves safety. If a senior is in your care, make sure you know where he or she is at all times and monitor the environment. Keep a list of friends or family who can be contacted to check in on your loved one if you are unable. Finally, talk with your doctor to find out how the heat may affect any existing medical conditions, or if any medications need to be kept refrigerated during the hotter months.
A Final Tip
If traveling this summer, be sure to think ahead about any additional precautions you may need to take in a new and possibly different environment. Are temperatures likely to be hotter? Drier? Do you need to take extra medications along? As mentioned, talk with your doctor and make him or her aware of your summer plans, whether staying in town or going away. Taking extra care is always the safest choice. Have a cool and happy summer!