Beat the Heat: 5 Summer Safety Tips to Help Seniors Stay Cool  

READ TIME: 6 MINUTES

By HomeWell Care Services

July 3, 2024

Beat the Heat: 5 Summer Safety Tips to Help Seniors Stay Cool  
Beat the Heat: 5 Summer Safety Tips to Help Seniors Stay Cool  

Did you know people aged 65 years and older are more prone to heat-related illness?1 According to Harvard Medicine magazine, older adults tend to retain more heat because their hearts don’t circulate blood as efficiently as they used to. Additionally, older adults—especially those who have a low income, identify as Black or Hispanic, or live in large cities—are more likely to become seriously ill from excessive heat.2 

One of the best things you can do to help your aging loved one stay safe this summer is to be proactive. Understand the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, know what signs to watch out for, and learn how you can help prevent heat-related illness from occurring in the first place.  

When the temperature begins to soar, you and your aging loved one can beat the heat with these cool tips.  

1. Know what to wear  

Possibly the biggest factor in keeping cool is the way you’re dressed. The most cooling clothing for extreme heat will feature: 

  • Breathable fabric, such as cotton or linen. If you’re unsure whether your clothing is breathable, simply stick your hand inside the garment and blow on it. If you can feel your breath through the material, you’re good to go. 
  • A loose fit. When clothes are too tight, they can trap sweat against your skin, which makes it harder for your body to cool itself down. Opt for clothing that lets the sweat evaporate so your skin can breathe. 
  • Sun protection. Although it’s tempting, shorts and tank tops are not always the best option during a heat wave. Save your or your loved one’s bare skin from harmful UV rays by opting for a lightweight long-sleeve and pants. 
  • Lighter colors. That’s right—even the color of your clothing matters. Darker colors tend to absorb heat, while light colors reflect it. By wearing white and summery pastels, you and your loved one can stay cool and make a fashion statement! 

2. Stay hydrated

Older adults should ask their doctor how much water they should drink per day, particularly if their daily fluid intake is limited or if they’re taking water pills. In general, it’s a good idea to drink more water than normal during the hot summer months. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Rather, drink small amounts of water consistently throughout the day. 

Simple ways for seniors to stay hydrated include: 

  • Eating foods with high water content, such as lettuce, watermelon, and tomatoes 
  • Limiting coffee and tea consumption 
  • Avoiding alcohol 
  • Always keeping a water bottle on hand 
  • Switching things up with seltzer or flavored water 
  • Incorporating low-sugar sports drinks, coconut water, and whole-food smoothies to help replenish electrolytes when outdoors for extended periods 

3. Keep the house cool   

Blasting the air conditioning in the summer tends to be a go-to choice to keep the house cool. But many cooling systems these days are notorious for breakdowns, leaving you with no AC and a pricey repair. Whether your HVAC has broken down or you’re simply looking to save on your electric bill, it can help to know how to cool down a room without AC: 

  • Apply window treatments. Close any blinds, curtains, or shades to block sunlight from entering. If you don’t have curtains or shades, consider applying reflective or insulated window film, particularly on east- and west-facing windows. 
  • Use ceiling fans. If you have ceiling fans in your home, make sure they’re set to rotate counterclockwise. This movement helps push the air downward and increases airflow throughout the room. 
  • Avoid cooking on the stove. Instead of turning on your hot stove or oven, keep the heat outdoors and cook dinner on a grill. Just make sure you’re dressed for the heat before firing up the grill. 
  • Get crafty. Create a cooling mist by hanging a damp bed sheet in front of open windows that let in an outdoor breeze. Alternatively, set out a box fan and place a shallow dish full of ice cubes in front of it for a similar effect.  

#DidYouKnow

A common myth is that closing doors to unused rooms will help cool down a home more efficiently. However, this can actually disrupt the airflow throughout your house. That means your cooling system must work harder to do its job, and your energy bill will likely increase because of it. 

In-home modifications 

If you or your loved one has the means to do so, modifying the house itself is one of the best ways to beat the heat this summer. Here are some simple tips to help you get started: 

  • Update the insulation 
  • Install screens onto windows 
  • Swap incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs 
  • Plant trees and shrubs around the house to create more shade 
  • Install awnings over windows 

4. Avoid overly strenuous exercise 

Regular exercise has a multitude of health benefits for older adults; however, seniors should consider certain safety precautions when it’s excessively hot outside. To help your aging loved one maintain a healthy exercise routine without overheating, try the following tips: 

  • Stick with low-impact exercises, such as swimming or walking. 
  • Exercise in well-air-conditioned indoor spaces. 
  • Plan physical activity, whether it’s a full workout or daily chores, for early in the morning or in the evening when the temperature is cooler. 
  • Refuel with plenty of water and cool, healthy snacks like frozen fruit and cold salads. 
  • Work out together for added safety and interaction. 
  • Talk with a doctor about a suitable exercise routine, particularly if you or a loved one has a cardiovascular condition or other medical concern. 

5. Explore the great indoors

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. If you and your loved one have exhausted your at-home options for cooling down and nothing seems to help, venture out into your community. Find a sweet treat at a local coffee shop, dive into a good book at a nearby library, or try a fun new activity at a recreation or senior center. Public spaces like these should always have working air conditioning and offer unique ways to switch up your afternoon with a change of scenery.  

How does home care help seniors stay cool? 

At HomeWell, we understand an in-home caregiver’s crucial role in ensuring seniors’ safety. Our caregivers can help clients maintain their daily routines, make sure they stay hydrated, choose weather-appropriate clothing, and monitor their general well-being—all while providing invaluable companionship. To learn more about how we can keep you or your loved one safe during the summer and throughout the year, schedule a consultation with HomeWell today. 

Interested in more health and safety tips? Check out our downloadable Trusted Tips and Guides where you can access more information about staying cool in the summer and more.

Sources 

  1. Heat and Older Adults | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
  1. The Effects of Heat on Older Adults | Harvard Medicine 

More Topics

  • Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

    July 3rd, 2024

    Beat the Heat: 5 Summer Safety Tips to Help Seniors Stay Cool  

  • Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson's Disease

    April 18th, 2024

    Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s Disease

  • February 15th, 2024

    Caregiver’s Guide to Heart Health: Supporting Your Loved One with Heart Disease