There’s just something special about summertime. At Friendship Village of South Hills, a senior living community in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, we help our residents celebrate the season by providing plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine.
Getting outside and staying active in the warm weather are great ways to maintain your overall health and well-being. But there are some health risks that seniors need to be aware of when they are outdoors and the temperature is hot. In this article, we’ll provide examples of the most common summer ailments that affect seniors and share our best summer safety tips.
Common Summer Ailments That Affect Seniors
As we get older, our bodies change. Older adults often find they no longer experience the sensation of thirst as intensely as they used to. And as we age, our skin is more susceptible to the damage of UV rays. This means that heat-related illnesses are a serious threat to the health of older adults, especially when they are taking part in summer activities.
Let’s review common summer ailments that affect seniors.
- Dehydration is a dangerous loss of water in the body. Warning signs include: Weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness.
- Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, typically due to excessive sweating. If left unchecked, it can lead to heat stroke. Warning signs include: Heavy sweating. Cold, pale and clammy skin. Muscle cramps. Weakness.
- Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It may happen gradually over days of heat exposure in older adults. Warning signs include: Hot, red, dry or damp skin. A fast pulse. Headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.
- Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms caused by fluid and electrolyte loss. Warning signs include: Heavy sweating during exercise and muscle pain or spasms.
- Sunburn is a type of skin burn resulting from too much exposure to sunlight. Warning signs include: Painful, red and warm skin. Blisters may also develop in severe cases.
Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization among older adults, and should be taken very seriously. Heat stroke is an emergency situation that requires medical attention. You can read more about these heat-related illnesses on the CDC and Health in Aging websites.
Tips for Older Adults to Stay Healthy This Summer
While the threat of heat-related illnesses is real, it should not dissuade older adults from staying active and getting outdoors in the summer months. Here are some tips seniors can follow to stay safe and healthy.
Drink Lots of Water and Apply Sunscreen
Water helps our bodies regulate temperature. Due to changes in body composition, older adults have less water in their bodies to start with than when they were younger. Our sense of thirst also diminishes as we age. Seniors need to drink water throughout the day, especially in the summer.
Additionally, skin loses fat and water content when we get older, allowing harmful UV light to penetrate more deeply. That’s why it’s essential to continue wearing sunscreen outdoors.
Wear Breathable Clothes, Sunglasses and Hats
Summer is the perfect time to break out your bright colors. Cotton clothing is the most breathable, but polyester and nylon are also good choices. A pair of stylish sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. A summer hat provides shade and protection.
Get Strategic About Time Spent Outdoors
Timing is key for older adults when spending time outside in the summer months. Avoid exercising or going outdoors in the afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 p.m., so plan your activities accordingly.
Take Advantage of Fresh, Local Produce
The summer is peak gardening season, and you can take advantage of this regardless of whether you enjoy working in the garden or browsing your local farmers’ market. Fresh greens are great for healthy eating.
Understand Prescription Side Effects
Some medications can cause increased sensitivity to the sun. It’s always a good idea to keep a list of the medicine you are taking and to ask your doctor about any potential side effects.
How Friendship Village Promotes Healthy Aging
Friendship Village of South Hills is a community that helps seniors age well. We empower our residents to live independently and provide the resources and opportunities for them to safely participate in their favorite activities and stay active year-round — whether indoors or outside.
Contact us today for more information about our retirement community or to book a tour.