What are helpful ways to stay safe this summer?
Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe heat or cold temps. What type of hazardous weather would you think leads to the most fatalities?
If you said it’s heat, you’re right, according to statistics compiled by the National Weather Service.
A 2020 Climate Central report showed an estimated 12,000 Americans die of heat-related causes annually, according to research by scientists at Duke University. More than 80% of those dying from heat-related illnesses are seniors over 60, researchers have found.
That’s why keeping yourself and other seniors safe in the sun this summer can be a matter of life and death.
Why are seniors vulnerable to heat?
Excessive heat can cause a host of problems, including dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and hyperthermia, which is the term for when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate.
Seniors – people 60 and older – have a higher-than-average risk of heat-related death because their bodies aren’t as good as they once were at dissipating heat. Older bodies are no longer able to sweat as much, and their circulatory systems aren’t as efficient.
Certain medications can cause heat sensitivity. Older adults who have respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses are especially vulnerable to heat-related problems. However, even active adults can succumb to the heat if their bodies simply get too hot.
But excessive temperatures mean something different if you live in the relatively low-humidity town of Colorado Springs, Colorado, versus the hotter and muggier Melbourne, Florida. Eagle Senior Living has locations in these areas and five other U.S. states, where a 90-degree day in Colorado will feel different than one in Florida. Consequently, one of the reasons people have differing degrees of adaptation to the heat is because of where they live.
But that doesn’t guarantee seniors living in Florida are impervious to heat-related issues. Here are some important summer safety tips for seniors that can better protect older adults (yes, even the active ones) who are out in the heat.
Six summer safety tips for seniors
- Watch the weather. In summer months, excessive heat waves can knock out the grids that supply power to large swaths of the country. That can lead to blackouts or brownouts that last for hours, even days. Know what the weather might be and prepare for it. Have a backup plan of where to go in case power is disrupted in your area.
- Stay hydrated. Seniors lose their ability to conserve water. So drink up! Water is best, so bring a water bottle with you wherever you go and drink frequently. Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content, like melons, grapes, cucumbers and strawberries. And no, alcohol and caffeine don’t count. In fact, these types of drinks actually promote dehydration.
- Dress for the weather. Before heading outside, put on lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Black absorbs the heat, so choose white or very light-colored clothing. Also, wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your head, ears, neck and shoulders.
- Keep cool whenever possible. Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a local mall, library, movie theater or senior center.
- Stay in touch. Seniors who are isolated or who don’t have family or friends close by are more at risk, because no one knows when they’re spending lots of time outside or that they’re struggling to stay cool in their homes. Check on the seniors in your life frequently.
- Know the symptoms. Hyperthermia has a range of symptoms, including excessive sweating; fatigue; intense thirst; abdominal, leg or arm cramps; clammy skin; and nausea or vomiting.
If you or someone else shows these symptoms, get out of the heat immediately, place cool washcloths on the body, drink water – and don’t hesitate to seek help.
Weather hazards – excessive heat, severe cold, hurricanes or tornadoes – are part of our natural environment. Eagle Senior Living communities around the country are well prepared for these hazards and many more. We’re ready to handle anything so that our Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care residents can fully enjoy each day, knowing they’re safe and sound.
If you’re looking for a senior living community where peace of mind comes standard, learn more about Eagle Senior Living.