Getting out and having fun in the sun is always one of the exciting parts of summer, but for aging adults, those activities can be dangerous without taking the proper precautions. This is especially true for those days of extreme heat and high UV index. While the tips we give below are far from comprehensive, it certainly provides a good starting point for seniors and people with disabilities to consider before engaging in those outdoor activities this summer.
Wear sunscreen – While this one may seem a bit obvious, it is often a precautionary step we forget, which can lead to some dangerous consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more on a warm sunny day. This may raise their risk of getting skin cancer. Each year in the United States, more than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer at a cost of about $8.1 million. Most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age.” In addition, the National Council on Aging says that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., but it is also the most preventable. The CDC adds that older adults do not adjust to sudden changes in temperature when compared to young people and that older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Older adults are also more likely to be taking prescription medications that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat. A broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, reapplied throughout the day, will help mitigate your risk for skin cancer.
Get rest – Heat exhaustion is nothing to take lightly. Sometimes we can catch ourselves in the zone while gardening, playing with grandchildren, or even just enjoying the summer weather, and we lose track of time. Make sure to take frequent breaks to go inside an air-conditioned building to get some rest and drink some water, especially if you begin feeling tired and dehydrated. If your home does not have air conditioning, reach out to your health department or Area Agency on Aging to see where there may be air-conditioned shelters located in your area. Other options to remain indoors include a friend’s house, a library, a shopping mall, the senior center, a religious organization, and much more.
Stay hydrated – The CDC recommends that you increase the amount of fluids you drink when it’s hot outside, and to not wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor has you on a fluid limitation or water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather. You can also have drinks that contain a high number of electrolytes to help keep you hydrated.
Take advantage of summer fruits and vegetables – Enjoy the delicious fruits and vegetables in season. Some fruits and vegetables that might be nice to enjoy this summer include apples, avocados, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, lemons, limes, mangos, okra, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, and much more. To see a full list of fruits and vegetables that are typically in season during the summer, visit the United States Department of Agriculture website at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide.
Enjoying the nice summer weather is always fun, but there are also tons of free opportunities in the city for older adults to have fun, often indoors. Below, we include a list of some of these activities to look for, from taking a walk in the park to creating a work of art for a family member.
City and county recreational programs – Cities and counties typically have a parks and recreation department that is responsible for putting together activities for people of all ages around the area. Check with your local city or county parks and recreation department to see what they have to offer. You can often find activities such as walking groups, gardening clubs, book clubs, and much more.
Libraries – As we mentioned earlier, libraries are a great place to cool off from the summer heat, but they also have an abundance of free activities. This includes things such as art shows, bridge, craft days, language learning classes, knitting/crochet/cross-stitching classes, tai chi/yoga, gardening days, and much more.
Parks – One great option to enjoy the nice summer weather is always a visit to the park. Most local parks are free, but check online if you want to make sure before you go. You can either take a leisurely stroll through the park or find a comfortable bench or patch of grass to sit on and take in your surroundings.
Craft stores – Whether it’s a local craft store or a national chain, most places like this offer some sort of classes for creating works of art, and many times those classes are free to the public! These classes include, but aren’t limited to, painting, creating greeting cards, crafting, framing, or creating your own succulent or flower arrangement. Religious organizations – If you are part of a religious organization or are interested in joining one, be sure to look for announcements of their upcoming events. These events are typically free and include things such as festivals, volunteer opportunities, bible studies, and more. This can provide you with a good opportunity to get out in the community and meet some new people.
Here are a few specific links for organization free days in some of the cities we serve.
by Spencer Griffin