Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

People of all ages enjoy the long, sunny days of summer, but the elderly aren’t able to adjust to changes in temperature as well as younger people. Additionally, chronic illnesses and certain medications affect older people differently, often making the body less able to tolerate high temperatures and sunlight.

Take extra precautions to keep your loved one cool and safe when the temperature begins to climb.

  • Loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing keeps the body cooler and protects the skin from harmful UV rays. Cotton and other natural fibers are cooler than synthetics.
  • Outdoor wear for the elderly should include a wide-brimmed hat to shield the face and sunglasses to protect the eyes.
  • Summertime often means transitions from hot afternoons to chilly evenings or indoor air conditioning. Layering cool clothing with a light jacket or sweater provides protection from temperature extremes.
  • Sturdy shoes with nonslip soles are safe and comfortable. Skip flip flops and loose sandals, which may cause trips and falls. Running shoes are a good choice because they cushion the feet and joints.
  • Heat and sunlight are most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The elderly should schedule outdoor activities such as gardening or walking when the air is cooler in the morning or evening.
  • Encourage your loved one to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, even on cloudy days. A sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30 offers the best protection.
  • Summertime is a good time to take a break from cooking, which raises the indoor temperature substantially. The nutrients and antioxidants in fresh fruit or vegetable-rich salads boost the immune system and the higher water content helps keep the body hydrated.
  • It’s safer for the elderly to remain indoors on extremely hot days. If your loved one’s home isn’t air conditioned, a few hours at a library, shopping mall, or other cool location can keep her comfortable while providing exercise and an opportunity for socialization. Senior centers and community centers often provide free transportation.
  • Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance—they sometimes carry West Nile virus and other dangerous diseases. If your loved one enjoys summer evenings outdoors, encourage him to wear light-colored clothing that covers the skin. An insect repellent that contains DEET or lemon-eucalyptus oil discourages mosquitoes and other biting pests.