Summer means popsicles, picnics, parades…and air conditioning. Lots and lots of air conditioning. While the lengthening days are a welcome relief, the climbing temperatures can spell trouble for seniors. Unfortunately, once you hit a certain age, your body just doesn’t work as well in the heat. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep your cool this summer.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in senior adults over the age of 65. As we age, we’re just more susceptible to melanomas, not to mention sunburn and other skin diseases. So be sure to slather on the sunscreen anytime you go outside (yes, even on cloudy days). Reapply often, at least once every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.
Avoid the hottest parts of the day.
The hours between 10am and 4pm are when the sun is at its peak and the temperature is at its highest. Plan your days accordingly. Early morning may be the best time to exercise, while late afternoon and evening can be a good time to get out and enjoy things like concerts, festivals and the like.
Older people tend to lose fluids at faster rates than younger folks, so be sure to carry a water bottle at all times (and remember to sip from it frequently). Iced herbal tea or fruit juices are also a good choice if you aren’t super fond of plain ol’ water. Even if you’re not feeling thirsty, remember to grab a glass of water from time to time – if you feel thirsty, it means you’re already dehydrated.
Continue to be active, but be smart about it.
There are plenty of ways to get exercise and stay active in the summer that won’t tax you horribly. Pool aerobics are a fantastic way to stay cool and work up a sweat at the same time (wait…how does that work?). Many community centers and senior centers hold open-to-the-public events during the day, and, bonus: they have air conditioning! Visiting these places are a great way to make friends and participate in fun activities.
Know how your medications might be affected by heat.
Some prescriptions can cause some nasty side effects if you spend too much time in the sun or exert yourself too much. Talk to your doctor about the medicines you’re taking and see if there are steps you should take in order to be safe this summer.
Recognize the signs of heatstroke.
Headache, nausea, being incredibly tired after exposure to heat, muscle spasms, dry skin – these are signs of heat exhaustion, which can sometimes be fatal if not addressed. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these sighs, immediately get out of the sun, into an air-conditioned place and get hydrated (water is best, but juice and sports drinks work in a pinch). Use cool cloths to help lower body temperature. Once you or the person you care about appears stable, contact a medical professional. If the issue is serious or doesn’t improve, call 9-1-1.
As with most things in life, a little planning for the summer heat can help you easily enjoy everything these warm months have to offer. Just play it cool, stay safe and don’t forget your sunglasses.