Last Updated: April 9th, 2019We all know how it goes—Mom gets frustrated because it’s too warm for the hike, or Grandpa doesn’t want to go to the beach because he doesn’t like the burning-hot sand.
When people get frustrated, regardless of whether they’re old or young, it inhibits their ability to have fun and enjoy themselves. Therefore, it’s important to segment your activities in order to appease a wide range of preferences during the non-peak temperature times of the day.
To assist you with your activity planning, below are my personal tried and trusted tips for helping your older relatives and friends enjoy the summer season.
Dehydration is one of the main causes of most health problems, not just those that are heat-related. To keep the body cool, and its systems running efficiently, water is a must.
Encourage the elderly to continually drink water throughout the day, even if they aren’t thirsty. Your body needs water long before it tells you through the sensation of thirst. Keep an eye on their consumption of caffeine and alcohol, too, as the intake of these substances can dry out the body.
Be aware of the time of day
If you have an activity planned, especially one that involves heavy sun exposure, schedule it accordingly. In summer, the hottest times of the day are between noon and 4 p.m., so aim for morning or evening when thinking about having a family outing. Most importantly, keep the time limited. There’s a limit to the amount of time people of any age can benefit from being in direct sunlight.
Dress in layers and use sun protection
The skin of the elderly is particularly sensitive, so encourage them to use sunscreen and bug spray when necessary. Try to make use of as many shady areas as possible during your summer fun. Elderly people should also wear light, breathable layers and sun hats to avoid sun exposure if shade isn’t available.
Watch the heat index
High heat coupled with high humidity impairs the body’s sweat glands, making it unable to cool itself properly. The heat index takes the moisture and heat measurements into account and then reports the ambient (“feels like”) temperature outside. There are various apps and websites, such as weather.com or this Google app, through which you can easily check the heat index for your area.
Take it easy when necessary
Plan your activities along with all family members who may be involved, keeping their needs in mind. If you’re inviting older family members, be sure to consider their limitations, as strenuous outdoor activities are overwhelming for many people—even those who are fairly young—in the summer.
Sometimes splitting your activity plans into parts is the best strategy to use. For instance, you could plan to have one part of the family go for a hike and then meet their older parents for lunch afterwards. That way, it’s still a social activity for everyone, but without a large amount of stress for the elderly group.
Keep as cool as possible
Air conditioning is a wonderful asset for people of any age, especially those living in hot climates. Fortunately, seniors who don’t have AC in their homes can take advantage of public places. Libraries, movie theatres, coffee shops and shopping centres almost always have AC. Taking a cool bath or shower is also a good option, as is using cool cloths and/or ice packs. Make sure these are handy at home for a quick grab when needed.
Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion
Keep an eye out for any physical signs that seem out of the ordinary. Sudden redness in the face, dizziness or nausea are a few of the “red flags” to look for. Any chest pain, erratic breathing, a rapid heartbeat or sudden headaches are all things that should be taken seriously. If you become aware of any of these issues, sit your elderly relative or friend down in a cool place with a glass of ice water and make them take slow breaths. Seek medical attention if their symptoms get worse.
The most important thing is enjoying time with one another
Adjusting to the summer heat can be a difficult task for your older family members. Lately, weather has been cycling between hot and cold at a rate that leaves many unprepared for either, so it’s best to be ready for any weather conditions a particular day might hold.
Always keep each person’s ability level in mind and don’t do too many activities. Being too regimented in your activities can cause stress within a group if someone feels they can’t live up to high expectations.
As we age, our energy levels tend to decrease. Know that your parents or grandparents might not be able to do what they once easily could, and that’s OK. They’ll just need some extra tenderness and understanding!
Be patient, take care of one another and, regardless of the activities you do, make sure you enjoy each other’s company throughout the summer.