Many seniors travel to Florida or other warm climates to get out of the winter cold. But whether you live with the heat year-round or are preparing for the spring and summer sun, are you ready to weather the weather?
Seniors – let’s say over age 65 here – are generally more sensitive to the heat than their younger counterparts. Why? Well, several reasons. One is that chronic illnesses can affect your body’s response to heat. And older people are more apt to have a chronic condition. Many prescription medications also impact how your body regulates its internal temperature. And sometimes meds inhibit your ability to perspire – and sweat is a body’s way of staying cool. And finally, seniors just don’t seem to adjust as well to sudden temperature changes as they used to.
A study by the University of Chicago Medical Center revealed that as many as 40% of all heat-related fatalities involved people over age 65.
So here are some tips for active seniors who still want to be out and about. Whether you’re hitting the links, relaxing by the pool, cheering at the ballpark or spending the day outside with the grandkids, there are a few things you need to remember. You can have fun in the sun as long as you play it safe.
- Dress for the weather. If it’s hot outside, wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you plan to be in and out of air-conditioning, bring along a sweater, but don’t plan to wear a long-sleeved shirt that you can’t take off. And don’t forget a hat. One with a wide brim will serve as a take-your-shade-with-you cap!
- Stay inside during the middle of the day. The hottest part of the day is between 10:00 and 2:00 when the sun is the most intense. Temperatures, however, can continue to climb as late as 6:00 p.m. It’s a good idea to plan your outside activity for early morning or late afternoon or evening. If you can’t do that, be sure to wear suntan lotion and wear the right clothes.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This one is so important, that you’ll often see (or hear) reminders at sporting events on the scoreboard or loudspeaker system. You may not feel thirsty, but keep drinking anyway. Dehydration is one of the biggest issues that affect your reaction to extreme heat. If you’re dehydrated, you can feel weak, dizzy or light-headed. Drinking throughout the day will keep you hydrated before it comes to that. And keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine both contribute to dehydration. So while a beer or two at the ballpark shouldn’t hurt you, be sure to drink water as well.
- Keep an eye on the temperature and heat index. With today’s smart phones, this is easy! There’s definitely an app for that! Just look on your phone or computer at any popular weather website. If you’re busy you may not think about how hot it’s getting until the temperature and air quality creep up on you. Check your phone periodically to see both the temp and humidity levels. The more moisture that’s in the air, the harder it is for your body to keep cool. If it’s getting seriously hot and humid, find some shelter or some shade.
- Relax and play it cool. If the forecast is for high heat and humidity, think twice about being out in the elements. Can you reschedule that golf game for another day – or at least go early or late? And don’t pick the hottest day of the year to go hiking, play a competitive game of tennis or practice for a marathon.
- Say “Si” to AC. If you have air conditioning, this is the time to use it! Stay indoors and keep cool. If you don’t have AC at home, spend the day at the mall, the movie theater, library or a friend’s place.
The heat, of course, doesn’t just affect active seniors. Even homebodies can feel the heat. Some seniors – especially those living on a fixed income – either don’t have access to air conditioning or don’t want to spend the money to use it very often. But on a hot and humid day, put your health before anything else. If you don’t have AC, go somewhere that does. If that’s impossible, turn on a fan or two and aim it directly at you. If all else fails, drink cool water, suck on ice cubes or take a cool bath or shower.
And be sure you know the warning signs of serious trouble. Heat exhaustion is the mildest version of a heat-related illness. Symptoms develop more slowly and while you may need to see a doctor, it may be “cured” by simply drinking plenty of fluid and resting in a cool place.
Heat stroke, on the other hand, is definitely more severe. Body temperatures can rise as high as 106 degrees in a matter of minutes and can even lead to death if left untreated. If you start to feel faint, have dizziness or nausea, or experience chest pain or have trouble breathing, you need to seek help right away.
If you’re a senior living in Florida, you already know it can get pretty hot and humid in the summer months. Veranda Club senior living community might be your answer. From air conditioning to cool dining, indoor and outdoor activities, and even a health and wellness team to answer your questions and monitor your health, at Veranda Club you can enjoy life — and beat the heat!
Learn about safe activities and events that you can participate in when living at the Veranda Club senior living community. Contact us today at 561.770.8519 to hear about our living options, programs, and other amenities.