With longer days and cool nights, summertime brings plenty of opportunities for older adults to enjoy the outdoors. We’ve put together a list of summer activities and precautions to consider in order to you stay safe and healthy while you’re enjoying everything summer has to offer!
5 Ways Seniors Can Stay Healthy This Summer
While staying fit should be a prime objective for seniors all year round, there is no denying that warm weather allows for a range of outdoor activities that can make daily fitness more fun in the summer. Here are some of them:
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 waste-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 do it with your spouse or friend. You can also join a walking club. Walking improves circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, supports your joints and may even help avoid 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 also can be a highly social experience. Consult the 126-year-old National Garden Clubs for information about a club in your area.
4. Ride a bike
It’s said, 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, it’s best to stick to parks and streets that have designated bike lanes.
5. Consider Tai Chi
The ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise that involves a series of relaxed and graceful movements that “have the potential for a wide range of benefits” for seniors, according to Mount Sinai Hospital. Those benefits include improved balance, coordination and flexibility, as well as reduced stress. Many non-profit organizations, including some YMCAs, offer Tai Chi classes for seniors. Classes often are conducted in parks in the early morning.
9 More Tips for Staying Safe in the Summer Heat
The hot, humid months of summer can present unique challenges for seniors. There are a variety of potential problems you need to be on the lookout for this summer ranging from sun poisoning to a heat stroke. We thought it would be helpful if we shared a few summer safety tips for seniors.
1. Stay hydrated
You’ve probably heard and read plenty of times by now that health experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water every day. In the hazy 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 illness and 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.
2. 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 mercury 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.
3. Review medications for side effects
Drugs commonly prescribed as we age can increase the risk for heat-related illness. They include medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some of the anti-inflammatories. They could result in heat exhaustion and sunstroke occurring more quickly. Consult with your doctor to find out if any of your medications pose a potential problem.
4. Don’t skimp on 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. It means we can experience sunburn more quickly and potentially even develop sun poisoning. Dermatologists recommend applying at least the equivalent of two tablespoons of sunscreen every two hours.
5. Cover up in the sun
While that might seem counterintuitive when you are trying to stay cool, it will help protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Make sure you have a hat that shades your face, sunglasses and a loose-fitting, lightweight shirt to throw on before heading outdoors.
6. Tick patrol can prevent Lyme disease
An increased amount of time spent outdoors puts people at higher risk for attracting ticks. That also applies to your furry friends. Before heading back indoors, make sure to go on tick patrol. Inspect your body and your pets for any signs of ticks.
7. Prevent food poisoning during summer barbecue season
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.
8. Overheated homes are especially hazardous for older adults
Rarely does a summer go by that we don’t hear about a tragic outcome for someone who lived in a home without air conditioning. 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 are in disrepair. Whatever the reasons A/C is not used, the warmer it gets, the cooler the elderly must remain, particularly when they are ill.
According to research conducted at the Harvard University School of Public Health, even small rises in summer temperatures may shorten life expectancy for seniors with chronic medical conditions. Following the lives of 3.7 million seniors with chronic medical conditions over 20 years, the massive study found that for each 1° Celsius of increase in temperature, the death rate increased from 2.8 percent to 4 percent.
Make sure your family has 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.
9. Finally, be sure to review and learn 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.
Stay Safe and Have Fun This Summer
While there are plenty of precautions you can take to stay safe this summer, we hope you enjoy this season by taking advantage of the warmer weather and participating in a variety of healthy activities. After all, winter will be here before you know it!