Visiting Angels Blog

Summer Fun and Elder Care

The Dangers of Overheating

As we age, our ability to regulate body temperature diminishes. People over age 65 tend to sweat less, and since perspiration is the body's main strategy for cooling itself, it's harder for seniors to stay cool when outdoor temperatures rise. Some medications also impact our ability to perspire or otherwise regulate our internal temperature. Even a salt-restricted diet can make dehydration more likely because it can lead to a lack of thirst. These factors and others increase the risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses for older adults.

The Benefits of Sunshine and Exercise

Even with these potential risks, sunshine and exercise have benefits we wouldn’t want seniors to miss. Studies show that even a few minutes of sunshine per day can dramatically increase the levels of Vitamin D our bodies produce. This is important because Vitamin D has been shown to build up our defenses against many disease including osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Regular exercise also has benefits for older adults. Light to moderate intensity activities (such as walking and swimming) improve stamina and balance, strengthen bones and joints, and reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, and many seniors enjoy the social aspect of attending fitness classes or walking with a friend.

With all these benefits and more, it’s important to find ways to enjoy sunshine and physical activity safely in the summer. For example, seniors can plan outdoor activities for the cool part of the day and spend the warmer part in the air conditioning. An early morning stroll would incorporate activity without the risk of overheating. An early visit to the zoo or botanical garden is also a fun way to enjoy summertime activities while avoiding the heat. Some folks enjoy walking at the local mall or inside other air-conditioned buildings. Most YMCAs also have year-round indoor classes designed specifically for older adults that allow them to enjoy exercise in a climate controlled environment.

Precautions to Take

We want our loved ones to safely enjoy all the benefits of sunshine and exercise this summer, and we can encourage them to keep the following precautions in mind.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid dehydration by paying attention to the amount of liquids you are consuming. Having a glass of water with every meal and sipping on water or other non-alcoholic beverages between meals is a good place to start. If you take water pills or your doctor is limiting your fluid intake for other reasons, ask about about the appropriate amount of water to drink.
  • Dress for warm weather. When spending time outdoors, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid strenuous activity. While daily exercise is important, avoid strenuous activity on warm days. The elderly are most at risk for heat stroke when body temperature increases rapidly over the space of 10-15 minutes, which can easily happen during strenuous activity in the summertime.
  • Spend the hottest part of the day indoors. From 10 AM to around 5 PM, outdoor temperatures are heating up. Plan to complete outdoor activities before or after those hours, and spend the hottest part of the day indoors in the air conditioning. If you don't have air conditioning at home, consider visiting the local library or mall to cool off in the afternoons.

At Visiting Angels of Joplin, our in-home caregivers and personal companions know the benefits of sunshine and activity for seniors and the precautions that need to be taken when it’s hot outside. As part of the overall home health care continuum, our caregivers will remind seniors to drink fluids and eat well, accompany them on daily walks or other activities, recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and much more. Let us know if you’d like to have a conversation about how we can provide the highest level of senior home care for your loved ones.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.