With longer, warmer days, summertime brings plenty of opportunities for seniors to enjoy the outdoors. We’ve put together a list of summer activities and precautions to help you stay safe and healthy while you’re enjoying everything the summer has to offer!
1. Do Aerobics in a Pool
You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to get enormous benefits from exercising in a pool. In fact, you don’t have to swim at all. For example, the simple act of walking in waist-high water is a great muscle-toning exercise. Many gyms and community organizations offer water exercise classes for seniors.
2. Take Early Morning Walks
A long walk before the temperature gets too high can be an invigorating way to start the day. Do it on your own if you prefer a contemplative experience, or arrange to walk with your spouse or a friend. You can also join a walking club. Walking improves circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, supports your joints, and may even help prevent dementia, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
3. Tend a Garden
It doesn’t sound strenuous, but gardening requires a lot of movement and uses many different muscles. For seniors who have a sufficient range of movement, it is an excellent way to retain strength and flexibility. Gardening can also be a highly social experience. Consult the National Garden Clubs for information about a club in your area.
4. Ride a Bike
It’s said that one never forgets how to ride a bicycle, and that must be true, because according to AARP, seniors comprise the fastest-growing group of cyclists. Health benefits are one of the major reasons for this trend. If bike riding appeals to you, look for a local cycling group in your area. They can help you find safe routes to ride, and give you tips on staying safe while riding in traffic. Another option would be to find a bike path that is closed to traffic
5. Consider Tai Chi
The ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise that involves a series of relaxed and graceful movements, and it unlocks great health benefits for seniors, according to Harvard Health. Those benefits include improved balance, muscle strength, and flexibility, as well as aerobic conditioning.
Many non-profit organizations, including some YMCAs, offer Tai Chi classes for seniors. Classes often are conducted in parks in the early morning.
6. Stay Hydrated
You’ve probably either heard and read that health experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water every day. During the hot days of summer, make it a priority to hit that mark, especially when outdoors. It is one of the best ways to prevent heat-related illnesses like sunstroke.
Many foods have a high water content that can help to improve hydration. Among them are watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, green peppers, cauliflower, and berries.
7. Limit Sun Exposure
The hottest time of the day is between noon and 4:30 p.m. It is best to avoid going outdoors during those hours of the day when the thermometer rises over 80 degrees. If you enjoy outdoor activities like walking or gardening, be sure to do these things in the morning or later in the evening.
8. Review Medications for Side Effects
Commonly prescribed drugs can also increase the risk for heat-related illness. This includes medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some anti-inflammatories. They could lead to an increased risk of heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of your medications pose a potential problem.
9. Use Plenty of Sunscreen
One of the most common health mistakes people make in the summer is not using an adequate amount of sunscreen and not applying it frequently.
As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner. This means we may experience sunburn more quickly and could even develop sun poisoning. Dermatologists recommend applying at least the equivalent of two tablespoons of sunscreen every two hours.
10. Cover Up in the Sun
While it might seem counterintuitive to cover up when you are trying to stay cool, doing so will help protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Make sure that you have a hat that shades your face, sunglasses, and a loose-fitting, lightweight shirt to throw on before heading outdoors. If you are prone to sunburn, consider investing in sun-protective clothing, which can provide an additional layer of protection.
11. Tick Patrol Can Prevent Lyme Disease
An increased amount of time spent outdoors puts people at a higher risk for attracting ticks. That also applies to your furry friends. Reduce your risk for tick bites, as well as the diseases they might carry, by wearing the right type of clothing and tick repellant. Before heading back indoors, make sure to go on tick patrol. Inspect your body and your pets for any signs of ticks.
12. Prevent Food Poisoning
No summer is complete without a few barbecues with family and friends! One of the difficulties of outdoor picnics and potlucks is maintaining the proper temperature of the food.
Foods that are considered high risk during the summer heat include prepared salads, dairy products not kept on ice, beef, seafood, fish, pork, and poultry. Food poisoning can be especially dangerous for older adults who have health conditions that may weaken their immune system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping foods cool until you are ready to eat, to cook your meat thoroughly, to wash your hands and produce thoroughly, and keep your foods separated until cooked.
13. Keep Your Home Cool
Older adults may be more reluctant to use air conditioning even if they have it because of the expense. Still others may forget to turn their systems on, or their units may be in disrepair. Regardless, as the temperature climbs, the cooler seniors need to remain – especially when they are ill.
Make sure you have a safe place to cool off during the hottest times of the day. Senior centers, the local mall, and the library are all good places to go to stay cool.
14. Know the Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses
The key to helping someone who runs into problems in the summer sun is to get medical attention immediately. Here are some common warning signs:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Painful, red, and warm skin
For more information and warning signs, consult this article from the CDC.
More to Explore
If you found these tips helpful, be sure to browse more of our health and wellness resources for seniors, like this article about healthy eating and shopping tips.