With the end of Spring approaching and Summer right around the corner, the outdoors and sunshine are beckoning. Spending time outdoors is great and has many health benefits, with increased vitamin D from sunshine being particularly of use for seniors. However, increased temperatures and too much sun can have negative and potentially serious health effects if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
First and foremost, remember to stay hydrated. As we age, our bodies become less effective at conserving water, and we might be less aware of thirst. Setting an alarm or a timer to remind yourself to drink at regular intervals can help make sure you aren’t becoming dehydrated, as well as using a refillable water bottle and having a specified number of times to empty and refill it each day. When you’re outdoors, a good rule of thumb is that if you feel the need to drink water, you aren’t drinking enough. Electrolyte replacement powders and beverages are also helpful in replacing the salts your body loses through sweat.
Certain medications can also cause increased sensitivity to heat, or inhibit sweating, or any number of side effects. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you might be on to determine if they’re putting you at increased risk this summer, so that you can take the necessary extra precautions to keep yourself healthy.
If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, then utilizing air conditioned public spaces is a great alternative. The mall, the movie theater, libraries, cafes, and other similar places can all be a good refuge to beat the heat. Your local city government or Agency on Aging might also be able to offer the use of a cooling center, or have programs to help financially with the cost of repairing, or purchasing and installing an air conditioner. Seniors are especially susceptible to even minor increases in temperature, so taking steps to stay cool is critical.
Don’t neglect sun protection, as well. Light colored and loose fitting clothing can help keep you cool, and long sleeves and wide brimmed hats can prevent overheating from sun exposure, as well as preventing burns. As we age, our skin gets thinner and more sensitive to sunlight. Sunblock in a high SPF is also a great choice. Greasy and unpleasant lotions are a thing of the past, as well, with many brands offering aerosol versions of sunscreen that merely have to be sprayed on. Don’t forget to grab one that is water-resistant if you’re going to be out at the pool, or sweating a lot, and make sure to reapply it every two hours while you’re in the sun. Sunglasses with a UV rating also protect the sensitive skin of the eyes from sun damage, too. Don’t make the mistake of wearing cheap sunglasses that only have dark lenses. These actually cause more damage to the eye, as the dark lenses make the pupils of the eye open wider, and then more harmful UV rays get inside the eye because the lenses don’t stop them.