Hot Weather Tips for Seniors by V!VA Retirement Communities
Published on July 15, 2022
Summer is here and with it comes dangerous levels of heat! To make the most of the summer season—after all, before we know it, winter will be back—it’s important to take precautions when out in the sun.
Seniors in particular can be vulnerable during the summer, especially during heat waves. The increase in temperature and sun exposure can cause heat exhaustion, heat edema, and heat stroke.
It is important to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and take the appropriate steps to protect you or your loved one during the summer months. Below we provide some great hot weather tips for seniors to help them stay safe during those particularly hot days.
The Heat Wave of Summer 2022
According to the Government of Canada and the Weather Network, a heat wave is loosely defined as three consecutive days of at least 32°C. Usually, heat waves involve high temperatures and high humidity, which can pose health risks for people, specifically seniors.
This summer has already brought heat waves to Southern Ontario! In fact, the heat waves in Ontario have broken records across the province.
Ontario has been home to eight out of the 10 hottest cities across Canada this summer, so far. Some of the cities that have seen daytime temperatures in the 30s for at least 10 days include Windsor, Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Brantford, Ottawa, and Toronto.
Ontario has also experienced several “tropical nights”, which occur when the temperature does not go below 20°C. This can be more dangerous, especially for people without air conditioning.
Why Heat Waves Are Risky for Seniors
Everyone is at risk of heat-related illnesses during a heat wave, but seniors are at a higher risk during extreme heat. As people get older, they are not able to regulate their body temperature as well. This is why extreme heat is more deadly for seniors.
Below are some common illnesses that seniors are at risk of developing during heat waves.
Heat syncope refers to the dizziness or fainting that can happen when the body temperature rises faster than the natural heat coping mechanisms in the body can react to cool down the body. This is a common occurrence for people when they are standing for long periods of time or stand up too quickly. Heat syncope can also be caused during a heat wave when dehydration sets in.
High temperatures can force the muscles in the arms, legs, or stomach to tighten, causing heat cramps. Lack of water intake and loss of essential electrolytes from sweating can cause this tightening of the muscles. While the inner body temperature rises, the skin surface may feel cool and clammy.
Heat edema is a common sign of spending too much time in the heat as the feet and ankles quickly swell. This dermal health condition occurs when the blood vessels dilate or expand from the sweltering heat. The body’s fluids soon become trapped within the tissues, resulting in a bloating of the extremities.
Another serious heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. This is considered a prequel to heat stroke, which could be a major risk for seniors. Heat exhaustion symptoms occur when the body is depleted of water and salt. Muscle cramps, pale skin, extreme fatigue, nausea, headache, and fainting can all signify heat exhaustion.
Air quality quickly deteriorates during heats waves, which can cause itchy eyes and breathing difficulties, especially for people who have impaired lung function. Heat waves also cause high levels of nitrous oxide and ozone, further making it difficult for seniors to be able to breathe properly.
Hot Weather Safety Tips for Seniors
Summer heat can pose many dangers for seniors, but so can other temperature fluctuations and extreme weather patterns. This doesn’t mean you or your loved one shouldn’t enjoy all of the pleasures retirement living can bring. It just means you need to be a little more careful.
Summer offers a vast number of opportunities to explore your neighbourhood, spend time with friends, and make wonderful memories with family.
You can prepare for the next heat wave with the following hot weather safety tips for seniors.
Hydration is the key to a healthy body and to ride out an extended heat wave in Ontario. The heat can cause a person to quickly become dehydrated which reduces the essential minerals and salts the body needs. Water, coconut water, and sports drinks containing electrolytes can quench a thirst while replenishing the levels of minerals your body needs. It’s recommended to reduce or avoid consumption of caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
Wear Suitable Clothing
Beat the heat by wearing suitable clothing during hot days. Loose fitting tops, pants, or dresses can help allow the skin to cool naturally. Lightweight fabrics such as cotton provide the needed comfort without overheating the body. When venturing outdoors on sunny days, consider wearing a large-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and long pants and shirts to prevent sunburn. You should also wear sunscreen and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
Stay Indoors When Hot
One of the advantage to living in senior communities is that they have air conditioning and ventilation where particles are filtered out instead of relying on open windows or fans. In addition, senior living communities often provide numerous activities in the games rooms, lounges, and restaurants during extreme heat. This can help entice residents to spend more time inside an air-conditioned establishment and avoid the high outdoor temperatures. The daytime temperature is usually at its highest between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Reduce Activities and Exercise
Even if you are spending more time inside, it doesn’t mean you should continue to exercise at full speed. Whether you are exposed to the sunlight or riding out a heat wave inside, seniors should be careful not to overexert themselves. The body needs to cool down after increased movement and the heat (even if you are inside an air-conditioned space) can take a toll on seniors by causing their heart and metabolic rate to quickly increase.
In addition to spending time in an air-conditioned room during the heat wave, seniors can keep their core body temperature low by taking extra precautions. Use cool water for baths and showers or take a cold wet facecloth and dab it across the wrists, temple, and back of the neck.
Heat Safety Measures at V!VA Retirement Communities
Residents at V!VA Retirement Communities across Ontario have a variety of options to deal with the hot temperatures and heat waves this summer. All of our communities in Barrhaven, Mississauga, Oakville, Pickering, Thornhill Woods, Whitby Shores, Meadowlands, and Waterside have state-of-the-art cooling facilities as well as around-the-clock assistance when needed. Our communities offer independent and assisted living private suites designed to fulfill ultimate comfort. Contact us today to learn more.