Summer is finally here – one of the best times of the year to take advantage of the beaches, activities and beautiful weather in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. This year, thanks to nationwide vaccination efforts and the reopening of businesses, summer will be particularly enjoyable. Most of us are already making plans to get out of the house, enjoy the beautiful weather and reconnect with friends and family.
“Summertime is an incredibly fun time in our area, but older adults should take precautions to make sure they’re staying as safe and as healthy as possible,” says Charles Benjamin, Executive Director of Harrogate, a premier active senior living community just minutes from Toms River and the Monmouth/Ocean County beaches. “As we all know, this area can get pretty hot, which can mean danger for older adults if they don’t pay attention to what their body is telling them. Fortunately, staying healthy and happy during the summer months is fairly easy. All it requires is a little extra preparation and a dose of common sense.”
Charles says the most important thing for seniors to remember is to not do too much at once. “Take it slow, take precautions and give yourself plenty of time to do the things you want,” he says. “Although it’s tempting to get out and do everything all at once, remember that you don’t have to cram all the enjoyment of summer into just one week or month. Better to be safe than sorry!”
Fortunately, staying safe in summer is relatively easy. Here are some common-sense tips that older adults can follow in order to stay healthy, safe and happy all throughout the warmer months.
- Stay hydrated. Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated? Most Americans don’t drink enough water, and that goes double for seniors. Older adults can become more easily dehydrated than younger adults because their bodies aren’t able to conserve water as well. As we get older, our sense of thirst deadens as well – meaning that older people aren’t always aware of when they’re thirsty, and they’re more likely to be dehydrated. Older bodies are often more susceptible to fluctuating temperatures, and certain medications can crank that sensitivity up even further. All this spells a recipe for dehydration, heat exhaustion and unhealthy conditions. The best way to fend off dehydration is to carry water with you while you’re out and about, and make sure there’s hydration easily available at home. If drinking just plain water isn’t enjoyable to you, look for flavored waters or stock up on hydrating foods like watermelon or soups. Try different things to see what you might like – for example, perhaps you find you like sparkling water or water that’s been infused with fruit. Anything that gets you drinking more is a good thing.
- Talk with your doctor. While certain medications cause older adults to become more easily overheated, there’s also the risk of medications not working as effectively as possible. Schedule a checkup with your doctor to discuss the medications you’re taking, as well as any hot-weather watch-fors you should be aware of. The last thing you want this summer is to have to deal with a severe medical issue just because the thermometer has risen a few degrees.
- Keep cool. The easiest way to not get overheated (and thus risk heat exhaustion) is to stay cool. Obviously, staying inside in an air-conditioned space is a great way to do this, so make sure to get your AC serviced before the heat of July and August really hit. However, you don’t want to be cooped up in your home all summer long. In order to keep yourself safe, choose to stay inside during the hottest times of the day and do outdoor activities either earlier in the morning or later at night. Sipping an iced beverage is also a great way to help cool yourself and keep your body temperature down. Don’t forget to stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Dress appropriately. The clothes you wear can play a huge role in helping you stay cool and safe this summer. Opt for natural fabrics like linen or cotton, as they are cooler than man-made fabrics and also have wicking properties to help you be less sweaty. Light-colored options in a loose fit are the best, as they help maximize air flow and don’t absorb as much heat. And while you may think that shorts and sleeveless shirts are the best choice to stay cool, these clothing options can actually make you hotter. That’s because these types of clothes expose your skin to the burning sun and can cause sunburns as well as causing you to be overheated. Instead, opt for longer, flowy pants and shirts that leave you feeling cool and comfortable.
- Shield yourself from the sun. The sun doesn’t just make you hot and sweaty. It also causes sunburns and increases your risk of skin cancer. Seniors particularly are more susceptible to melanoma, so it becomes more important than ever to shield yourself from the sun’s rays. Make sure that you have a strong sunscreen that you wear every day on your face and any other parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. When you’re out and about, be sure to wear sunglasses, hats and long sleeves and pants that keep UV rays off your body while keeping you cool.
- Know what heat exhaustion looks like. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are caused when body temperatures rise to an abnormal height. This can become life-threatening, so knowing the warning signs and what to do when you see them may help save your life or the life of someone you love. If you or someone you know is sweating profusely, having muscle cramps, experiencing headaches or weakness, is nauseated or is vomiting, immediately get to a cool place. Have the person experiencing the symptoms drink something cool and do everything you can to cool off body temperature quickly. Soak washcloths or towels in cool water and use those to help quickly cool down. Once you or the other person has stabilized, visit the hospital or your doctor to get checked out. However, if you or someone you know suddenly stops sweating, has heavy breathing and a rapid pulse, has dry and flushed skin or is experiencing sudden personality changes, call 911 immediately.
- Steer clear of bugs. No one likes getting bit by mosquitoes. Not only is it itchy and uncomfortable, but bugs also carry diseases like the West Nile Virus. As we get older, we become more susceptible to these forms of diseases, so be sure to use bug repellant when you’re outside and burn citronella candles if you’re dining al fresco.
One more tip: have fun. Yes, staying safe is important, but so is enjoying the beautiful summer months. Take precautions but be sure to get out and relish the warm weather and activities.
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