For us here in Queensland it won’t be long until sweltering through the day and night will become an everyday occurrence. For seniors, it’s important to plan how to beat the summer heat by staying as cool as possible on the hottest days.
Why is heat dangerous to the elderly?
Those over the age of 65 are vulnerable to extreme heat and need to take measures to stay cool. As we get older, not only does sweat production diminish which can interfere with our body’s ability to cool itself down, but we also have a reduced sensation of thirst. This combination of physiological changes can lead to overheating and dehydration, which can be a dangerous mix for elderly people living at home.
Hot weather tips for seniors
So what can seniors do to stay cool when the mercury rises? The following tips can keep you cooler and ensure you stay out of danger in the summer heat.
Without adequate hydration, an older person has an increased risk of hospitalisation and mortality. Due to their reduced sensation of thirst, elderly people should be aware of the early signs of dehydration to ensure they top up their fluid levels when needed. The signs to look out for are:
- Dry mouth, eyes and skin
- Dark coloured urine
- Feeling tired or disoriented
- Feeling of hunger
Aim for at least six to eight glasses of fluid a day and drink these even if you don’t feel thirsty. While water is the best option, fruit and vegetable juices are good alternatives. You can also try freezing these into ice cubes to suck on when you need to cool down.
Dress for the heat
While it’s tempting to strip off when the temperature climbs, long and loose-fitting clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton or linen are the best options for hot days.
Go for light coloured garments with long sleeves. These reflect the heat while protecting the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. When outside, make sure you protect yourself by wearing a hat, sunglasses and 50+ sunscreen.
Plan your day to avoid the heat
If you are headed out, try to plan your day to avoid the hottest part of the day which is generally between 11 am and 3 pm. During these hours it’s best to stay in a cool area and abstain from physical activity. Doing a craft project, reading a book or even taking a nap are good options.
Keep your home cool
While using air conditioning is something that many older people avoid until it’s absolutely necessary, it’s the best way to keep your home at an ideal temperature.
Make sure your air conditioning unit is set to cold and a temperature of 24 to 25 degrees. This is the best temperature for both comfort and your electricity bills. Fans can be used to circulate the cooler air around the house.
If you don’t have air conditioning, try placing ice cubes in front of a pedestal fan. This can cool down the air and ensure you’re not just blowing hot air around the house.