Beat the Heat

Electric fan cooling an elderly woman sitting on the sofa in the living room

As the temperatures climb, so does the challenge of maintaining good health, especially for seniors. Warmer weather brings unique challenges for older adults, who are more susceptible to the effects of heat due to physiological changes that come with aging. So, it’s essential for seniors and their caregivers to adopt strategies that safeguard their wellbeing during the hotter months.

Over 80%of the approximately 12,000 deaths due to heat-related causes in the United States are people over age 60. Seniors are more prone to problems due to heat as they have a harder time adjusting to sudden changes in temperature. Older adults also are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or take medicines that change the body’s normal reaction or control of temperature and sweat.

So, how can you keep yourself and your loved ones safe during the heat?

Stay hydrated. Hydration is crucial for everyone, but for seniors, it becomes even more critical as their body’s ability to conserve water is reduced.

  • Increase fluid intake. Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Remember, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
  • Monitor urine color. Light-colored urine usually indicates good hydration, whereas a dark color could suggest the need for more fluids.
  • Eat water-rich foods. Include fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, and oranges in your diet, which can help increase overall water intake.

Choose appropriate exercises. Physical activity is important for aging well, but exercising in the heat requires thoughtful planning.

  • Time your workouts. Avoid the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Early morning or late evening workouts are cooler and more comfortable.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect against the sun.
  • Select suitable activities. Opt for low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga, which are easier on the body but still effective.

Know the signs of heat illness. Being proactive about recognizing and responding to the signs of heat stress is vital to preventing serious complications during the warmer months – especially for seniors.

  • Know the symptoms. Look out for signs such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and heavy sweating. More severe symptoms include rapid heartbeat, fainting, and confusion.
  • Stay informed. Pay attention to weather forecasts and note any cooling centers nearby. Monitor the indoor temperature, especially if you don’t have air conditioning; room temperature should ideally stay below 78°F (26°C).
  • Act quickly. If any signs of heat stress are noticed, it’s crucial to move to a cooler place, drink water, and rest immediately. Contact healthcare providers if symptoms persist or worsen.

Since June is National Great Outdoors Month, it’s a perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities; being in nature can boost seniors’ moods while enhancing physical health. But remember to enjoy the outdoors and warmer weather safely. So, grab a water bottle, put on a hat and sunscreen, and head out early to make sure you enjoy the beauty of nature with comfort and care.