We are well into summer now, and we all have to be more mindful of the sun and the heat. Seniors are especially vulnerable to extreme temperature. As we age, our bodies are less sensitive to temperature changes and we don’t adjust as easily. Seniors may not notice that they are overheating until suddenly they feel very sick. This month, we talk about ways to help keep yourself and your older loved ones safe and comfortable in the summer weather
Food and drink
Staying hydrated is even more important in hot weather when you’re sweating more. Drinking cool water or other non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks can also help keep you comfortable. For seniors, don’t wait until they feel thirsty, but try to encourage them to drink consistently throughout the day.
When it comes to snacks and mealtimes, opt for cold, light foods over heavier or warmed dishes. Snacks like popsicles or chilled fruit are a good way to cool off. Light, cold meals like sandwiches or different kinds of salads can help you feel comfortable through the day.
Keep your environment cool
If you’re staying at home, you can keep the temperature down by keeping shades closed during the hottest part of the day. Mylar solar curtains are inexpensive and can help reflect more heat away from your home. Change your ceiling fan to turn counterclockwise so it can push cold air down. If necessary, run fans in rooms to improve air circulation. Spend time on the lowest floor of your home, as cool air will naturally sink.
If you’re out and about, you can also cool down at public areas like a senior center, library, shopping mall, recreation center, or coffee shop. All of these places should be air conditioned for the public and have chairs available for a senior to sit and rest should they need to.
Cool down with water
Swimming is a great way to stay comfortable and get some exercise in the summer, but you don’t need a pool to cool off with water. You can place a cool washcloth on the back of the neck. You can also sit with your feet in a pan of cool (but not too cold) water. A cool shower, bath, or washcloth wipe-down can also help. If you don’t have access to washcloths or pans, you can also run cool water over your wrists and forearms from a faucet.
Be careful this summer, especially if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s important to drink water consistently throughout the day and take breaks to cool off before you feel bad. Staying cool is especially important for older adults who can’t regulate their temperature as easily. For more information about heat-related illnesses and tips for staying healthy, check out the CDC’s page on extreme heat.