Some like it hot. Some like to play it cool. But one thing is for sure this summer: every Sunshine resident has it made in the shade with the snazzy sun visor or baseball cap they received for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day a few months ago.
“We thought that giving all of our residents a stylish sun visor or cap this summer would be a fun way to offer them protection from the sun, which is important in so many of our communities,” said Lauren Dubay, Sunshine Retirement Living’s Wellness Director. “But really, that’s just the beginning of what residents should be doing to protect themselves from the heat and harmful UV rays.”
While it’s great to be outdoors enjoying the summer sunshine, seniors especially need to take precautions against sunburn, eye damage, dehydration and heat exhaustion. With that in mind, here are several sensible sunshine safety tips to make sure the living is easy for your summertime.
1. Drink plenty of fluids. Seniors should be aware that the sensation of thirst decreases as they age. Plus, by the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. So it’s important to increase your water and fluid intake if you are exercising or doing any type of prolonged physical activity. Even if you’re not exercising heavily, plan to drink six to eight beverages per day. Of those fluids, be sure they are non-alcoholic and decaffeinated. Carbonated sodas and pops may taste good, but they will only further your dehydration.
2. While you’re at it, take your Vitamin D. It’s important for older adults to have a daily dose of vital vitamin D, especially if you’re staying indoors to avoid the hot sun.
3. Pick the right clothing and accessories. Your favorite sweatshirt and pair of blue jeans do you no favors when the mercury climbs into the 90s. Whenever possible, wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored long sleeves to help protect your skin from sun, while also allowing your skin to breathe. Wear your visor or a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your face and neck. And don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. The right glasses can help reduce the cumulative effect of damage linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
4. Be an early bird or night owl. Obviously, the sun is strongest between 10 am and 5 pm. If you’re gardening or exercising outside during a summer heat wave, try to do your activity in the morning and the evening, when the temperature is lower and the sun is less intense.
5. Watch for heat stroke. It is extremely important for seniors to watch for signs of heat stroke when they are out doing activities with friends and fellow residents. Some signs to look for include confusion, disorientation, dry skin, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea and a rapid pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
6. Check on friends and family. A good way to prevent heat stroke among friends and relatives is to use the rising temperatures as an opportunity to catch up with them, especially the elderly and those who do not have air conditioning. Plan outings together in places that have air conditioning or invite them over to enjoy the AC at your community.
7. Review your medications. Some daily medications that seniors frequently use can cause side effects, like increased sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Review all medications and check with a doctor or pharmacist for any questions.
8. Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen may be a foreign concept to those of us who didn’t grow up with over-protective mothers or skin that tans naturally like George Hamilton. But these days, it’s proven to be effective in preventing sunburns and skin-related diseases. Look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and also has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Be sure to apply it about 15-30 minutes before going out. If you’re enjoying water activities, reapply it frequently. It only takes about 15 minutes for the sun to damage unprotected skin and chances are, you won’t notice it until it’s too late.
If you do get sunburned, your skin may become warm, red and blistered (in extreme cases). The area may be painful and feel itchy at times. A cool shower or bath can help relieve the pain. After the bath, moisturize your skin with aloe. Since sunburns can dehydrate your body, increase your fluid intake for the next two to three days.
Most Sunshine residents are very active year-round, and summer time heat and humidity usually doesn’t stop them from going outside, gardening, walking their pets, and enjoying their patios and outdoor areas. With proper protection, the fun in the sun never has to end.