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Helpful Tips for Seniors’ Heat Safety

senior couple spending time outside on the beach near their retirement community

Here comes the sun.

Who doesn’t love the summertime? It’s one of our favorite seasons in Virginia Beach, with blue skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. At Atlantic Shores, residents spend much of their time outdoors playing tennis or shuffleboard or perfecting their stroke on the putting green. There’s plenty of “cool” stuff to do indoors too, including fitness classes in our climate-controlled exercise studios, book club in the library, and happy hours in the Magnolia Room. With new guidelines recently announced by the CDC, our reopened community  is bustling and our residents are having fun in the sun. Keep reading for useful tips on seniors’ summer heat safety and how to beat the heat

Love sunshine and fresh air?

You’ll love it here. Summertime means beach time for many of our residents. And being just a 10-minute drive from the Virginia Beach oceanfront and boardwalk gives them beach access at an unbeatable value. Plus, we offer lots of ways to beat the summer heat on our 100-acre oasis on the shores of Lake Redwing. Shady walking trails and tree-lined streets are ideal for your morning bike ride or an evening stroll. Summertime on our campus is also a perfect opportunity for a picnic, in our cool, screened-in pavilion amid beautiful natural scenery. We’ll even cater the food and beverages and do the cooking, so all you do is relax and enjoy your friends and family.

The benefits of sunshine.

It feels good to be out in the light and warmth. And it’s a fact that getting sunshine increases our body’s Vitamin D levels. This vitamin is important to bone health and preventing diseases such as osteoporosis. Our skin reacts to the sun’s radiation by making Vitamin D. Of course, if you regularly wear sunscreen with an SPF greater than eight, you’ll be protecting your skin but absorbing less Vitamin D. And if you have a darker skin tone, you may not be absorbing Vitamin D even when you’re in the sunshine.

Sunlight also triggers the release of serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood and promotes calm and focus. Conversely, a condition called SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is caused by low serotonin levels from the lack of sunlight during darker winter months. Sunlight therapy can mitigate SAD, and physicians also recommend sunlight therapy for skin conditions such as psoriasis, jaundice and eczema.

The World Health Organization estimates that five to 15 minutes of sun on your hands, face and arms two or three times a week is sufficient to keep Vitamin D levels high. However, as we all know, overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn or long-term hazards such as skin cancers. It’s also been shown that overexposure to the sun’s UV rays can weaken the immune system and can also be harmful to the eyes, possibly leading to cataract issues later in life.

Why do seniors feel the heat more?

As the body ages, it doesn’t adjust to changes in air temperature as quickly as it once did. Bodies don’t cool down effectively, and it may take longer to recover when overheated. Certain chronic medical conditions or medications may also affect or restrict how you respond to heat, or your ability to sweat. For these reasons, seniors’ heat safety should be a factor during a sweltering summer, as they are at greater risk of heat-related illnesses and breathing difficulties.

Heatstroke and seniors.

Every summer, thousands of Americans suffer from the effects of excessive heat, including dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Hospitalizations for heat-related illnesses increase with age, especially for those ages 85 and older. Heatstroke happens when your body can’t cool itself down quickly enough. When someone is affected by extreme heat, they may show signs of mental confusion that can even mimic a stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include muscle cramps, nausea, headache and feeling faint. As heat exhaustion progresses into heatstroke, a person stops sweating and may appear pale, or have red or dry skin. They may also vomit, complain of their heart racing, breathe rapidly, or become unconscious. Getting medical attention immediately can be a lifesaver. At the Atlantic Shores Wellness Clinic, licensed professionals are available throughout the day, and also make house calls. We also have emergency medical technicians standing by 24/7, so you and your loved ones can have complete confidence in case of an emergency.  

Have a Safer Summer: Heat Safety Tips for Seniors

Enjoy the glorious summer sunshine with these tips in mind:

  • Listen to weather and news reports so you’re aware of days when extreme heat is expected.
  • Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day.
  • If you are outside, avoid direct sun by staying in the shade.
  • Dress for the weather in cool, light-colored clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton or linen.  
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 to exposed skin during outdoor activity. Set a phone timer to remind you to reapply every two hours.
  • Schedule your walk or exercise during cooler early morning or late evening hours.
  • Avoid crowded areas when it’s hot outside.
  • Drink plenty of cool liquids — water, hydrating sports drinks, fruit juices, etc.
  • Avoid overconsumption of drinks such as alcohol, coffee and tea, as they are dehydrating.
  • Don’t wait till you’re thirsty. Important advice for the elderly in hot weather is to stay hydrated all day by drinking a half to a full ounce of fluid per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink 160 ounces of water each day.
  • Keep your home cool with air conditioning or fans.
  • Open your windows at night and create a cross breeze with windows on opposite sides of the room.
  • Keep your curtains or blinds drawn during the hottest part of the day.
  • Take cool, rather than hot, showers or baths.
  • Use a cool, damp washcloth on your neck, ankles, forehead and wrists if you feel overheated.

Breathing easier is easy.

Another summer heat safety tip for seniors is to ensure there’s proper ventilation in the home. If you’re in the habit of locking your windows due to security concerns, and you don’t have or are reluctant to use air conditioning or fans, the temperature inside your home in the summertime can become uncomfortably hot. Inexpensive safety latches for your windows will allow you to leave the windows open safely so air can circulate. Our retirement community features 24/7 security, so there’s no need to worry about leaving your windows open. Apartment homes and villas also feature individually controlled heating and air conditioning systems, so you can set the indoor temperature to what’s comfortable for you.  

Summer is in full swing at our active senior living community. Come and see. Our campus is reopened and welcoming visitors. Give us a call to arrange a personal tour at 757-275-8705.