Why Seniors are More Susceptible to Heat and How to Help

It’s been quite a hot summer so far. We skipped May Gray and June Gloom here in San Diego and Nurse Christine at Senior Community Centers has been busy educating our seniors how to beat the heat. “I tell seniors to drink plenty of water even if they are not thirsty and to stay cool by limiting exposure to the heat during peak hours.

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(Photo Credit: http://www.griswoldhomecare.com)

Heat waves and consistently high temperatures are dangerous for anyone but especially for older adults. Here is why:

  • The brain’s natural thermostat loses its sensitivity when getting older (especially at 80 and above).
  • Circulatory problems and medications interfere with the ability to regulate the body temperature.
  • The ability to sweat and the body’s natural cooling system may be lost with age.
  • The sense of thirst and craving water may also disappear over the years.
  • Being able to “take the heat” may be a generational demonstration of strength since older adults grew up without air conditioning.
Here is what you can do for yourself and for your elderly loved ones: 
  • Clothing: Wear light-colored, lightweight and breathable clothing and a hat to fend off the heat.
  • Go easy on your joints. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise and helps prevent overheating.
  • Exercise during early morning hours. It’s cooler outside and the air quality is better.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water – preferably every 2 hours – and don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Add fruit to your water for flavor.
  • Protect your food. Take extra precautions to keep perishable food cool and use proper preparation guidelines when cooking to stay safe.
  • Keep blinds shut. Keep out the sun by lowering your blinds or curtains
  • Keep your fan on.  Open the window to create a draft. Moving air cools down your skin.
Most of all…
  • Call or visit friends, family and neighbors twice a day. If they start acting confused, have a headache, are dizzy or nauseous, then they’re showing signs of a heat stroke. Call for immediate medical help.
Can’t cool off at home? Visit the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center between 7 am and 4 pm M-F or from 8 am to 2 pm on Sat/Sun to socialize, take classes or have lunch. Or check the following website for designated cool zones in your area: County of San Diego Cool Zones.
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