Warm summer months are peak times to enjoy celebrations and activities outdoors. While some fun in the sun can be good for everyone, it is important for seniors especially to be mindful of not spending too much time in the heat.
Research has shown those 60 years and older are among the worst affected by extreme heat. Lowered body temperature regulation, thirst mechanism, use of certain medications and increased risk of chronic diseases make seniors a greater risk for heat injuries. Despite the higher risk, seniors can still enjoy summer to the fullest while staying safe.
Wondering how seniors can have summer fun without harming health? Follow these tips for how to stay healthy during the summer.
6 Summer Health Tips for Seniors
Ideally, in the summer seniors will be able to spend time inside an air conditioned space when not outside. When venturing out in the heat, these tips will help seniors stay healthy and cool through the summer months.
1. Increase Liquids
Increasing liquids is in general a good idea for seniors but even more so in the hot summer. Especially when going out in the heat, seniors should drink extra liquids leading up to, during and after spending time outside.
Ideally choose unsweetened beverages such as water, iced tea or fruit flavored water over sweetened beverages. Make sure to pack a water bottle to take with you when spending time outside in the summer.
2. Stick with Light, Loose Fitting Clothes
Another way to help stay cool in the heat is by wearing the right clothes. Avoid wearing dark or tight clothes outside in the summer. Instead, opt for light, loose fighting clothes. This will help the body regulate temperature and release excess heat.
3. Stay Protected From the Sun
Besides wearing light, loose clothes, wear sunglasses to protect eyes and a wide brimmed hat to offer protection from the sun. In addition, make sure to apply (and reapply) a broad spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and protects against UVA and UVB rays.
When possible, stay under shade when outside. Avoid peak hours of hot temperatures, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., for any yard work or other activities that will exacerbate heating the body’s temperature.
4. Properly Store Medications
Besides keeping body temperature cool during the summer, it is also important to keep medications at cooler temperatures during the summer. According to care.com, some medications can become less effective when stored over 86°F.
For this reason, be careful not to keep medications outside, in a hot car or anywhere else that can stay warm and humid.
5. Be Attentive of Unfamiliar Surroundings
Fall risks are generally associated with colder months when ice and snow can make surfaces extra slippery. However, an often overlooked senior summer health tip is to stay attentive of surroundings in the summer especially when traveling.
When going on trips or vacations, the risk for falling can be higher due to being in new surroundings. It can be easy to get swept up in finding the best photo op or videoing a new destination instead of looking at the ground. Therefore, it is important to stay attentive and pay attention to terrain in unfamiliar surroundings to avoid trips and falls.
6. Cool Down When Feeling Hot
If feeling hot, it is important to cool down before body temperature continues to rise. Besides drinking adequate fluids, come inside from the heat and take a lukewarm bath or shower if possible. If that is impossible, put cold, wet cloths on the neck, wrists, ankles or wherever else on the body that feels comfortable.
If a senior has confusion, weakness, cramping, heavy sweating or sudden shift in amount of sweating, contact 911 immediately. These could be signs of dangerous heat injuries that may need further medical attention.
Healthy Food Tips for Summer
Summer can be the peak time to enjoy healthy eating as fruits and vegetables are in season. On the other hand, summer months can also mean BBQs and potlucks outside, which can also increase risk of foodborne illness.
With the summer high temperatures, changes in appetite and lowered desire for cooking can make healthy eating challenging for some seniors. Follow these food tips to enjoy fresh summer eating and stay healthy this summer.
Load Up on Fruits & Vegetables
Summer is the perfect season to add fruits and vegetables to a senior’s diet. Fruits and vegetables are easy to find from local sources, and the hot temperatures naturally cater to eating more fresh salads, smoothies, fresh fruits, and vegetables for snacks. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help meet fluid needs, as fruits and veggies have high water content.
Keep fresh produce in plain sight on the counter or in the front of the refrigerator. If possible, wash produce and keep in bags that are ready to go for an easy snack on the go. For example, wash cherries and store handfuls in plastic bags in the fridge. Cut up and store melon in the refrigerator for an easy, hydrating, refreshing snack.
Focus on a Healthy Breakfast
If warm temperatures later in the day cause lack of appetite, focus on eating a nutritious, filling breakfast every day when appetite may be highest. Keep breakfasts quick and simple by pairing fruit and veggies with whole grains, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats. Examples can include:
- Fruit with cottage cheese and a handful of nuts
- Omelet with veggies and whole-grain toast
- Smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit
- Whole grain toast with nut butter and berries
Practice Food Safety
According to the CDC, about one in six Americans gets food poisoning, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year from foodborne illness. Food illnesses tend to be higher in the summer because of warm weather that encourages bacteria growth.
Seniors should be aware of reducing the risk for foodborne illness, as adults 65 years and older are at an increased risk for foodborne illness with potentially serious consequences. Keep food safe in the summer by:
- Grilling meats to proper temperatures
- Washing fruits and vegetables before cutting
- Keeping foods and utensils separate between dishes and minimizing the time food is left out. For example, foods like meat, egg dishes and cooked veggie or grain dishes should be kept out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours.
- Keeping cold food cold at 40°F or less when traveling. Pack foods in coolers with adequate ice and cold packs.
Summer can mean vacations, family get-togethers, and spending more time outside. However, summer can also mean an increased risk for senior health concerns associated with heat exposure.
The good news is steps can be taken to minimize senior risk of heat injuries during the summer. They include:
- Protecting from the sun when outside
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and fluids
- Keeping medications out of the heat
- Being aware of new surroundings to minimize fall risks, and cooling down when feeling hot
Senior food tips for summer months include increasing fresh fruits and vegetables, focusing on a healthy breakfast and practicing food safety.
Care.com. Summer Safety Tips For Seniors: How To Help Older Adults Stay Healthy When It’s Hot Outside. Published May 20, 2021. https://www.care.com/c/stories/5444/12-summer-safety-tips-for-seniors/.
Tip Sheet: Hot Weather Safety Tips for Older Adults. https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/tip-sheet-hot-weather-safety-tips-older-adults.