Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Staying active is important for both physical and mental health, but for seniors, taking precautions to remain safe and healthy are critical to enjoying summer activities. Seniors are at higher risk for heat-related illness, such as heat edema, heat rash, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and more. The heat and humidity can also affect the lungs, particularly for those with conditions such as COPD or Asthma.
In this article, we are exploring some wonderful ways seniors can be active in the summertime while remaining safe.
Gentle Strolls/Nature Walks
Walking is an excellent, low-impact activity that benefits both physical and mental health. The opportunity to engage the senses, breathe fresh air, and enjoy nature can lift the spirits and promote relaxation. For seniors who can’t walk independently, they can use a walker, wheelchair, or have a caregiver assist them. The numerous benefits of walking include: lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, increasing strength, improving sleep, decreasing cognitive decline, and so much more. Besides the opportunity to socialize with a companion, walking is also a great choice because it doesn’t require special equipment or going far from home.
Safety Tips for Seniors While Walking Outdoors:
Be prepared! For seniors of any age/ability, staying safe while walking means planning ahead.
- Monitor the weather.
Avoid walking if the humidity is extreme. Be sure to check the air quality across Canada by clicking here.
- Pick appropriate times.
Don’t go out during the hottest times of the day (normally, 3-5pm). Plan walks in the morning or later evening.
- Dress appropriately and bring water.
Prevent overheating and dehydration by wearing light clothing and ensuring you bring plenty of water (and don’t forget to drink it!).
- Stay on well-maintained paths.
Many communities offer paved walking paths through nature areas. Stay away from gravel and rough terrain to reduce risk of injuries.
- Walk with a companion.
Walking with a companion is not only a great way to socialize, but it also helps ensure safety with better visibility (4 eyes is better than 2!), support, and the ability to help if the need arises.
Water activities are a fun way to cool off and get exercise. Swimming, water aerobics, and hydrotherapy exercises are gentle on joints, improve flexibility, and provide relief from aches and pains.
Did you know that swimming can actually reduce the risk of falls for seniors? A recent study showed that the risk of falls declines by 33% over the age of 70 for those who are active swimmers. It is believed that swimming not only strengthens the muscles, but improves balance.
Safety Tips for Seniors in Water:
While pool safety is important for any age, there are certain hazards seniors need to be particularly aware of.
- Be cautious of slippery surfaces
Not only are seniors at higher risk of falling, but the injuries sustained in a fall are much more serious for those over the age of 65. Pool areas can be very slippery, so taking precautions is important. Wearing water shoes, ensuring you use handrails, and having a caregiver assist you can help keep you safe.
- Stay hydrated.
Being in the water doesn’t mean we don’t need to hydrate. Ensuring adequate water intake during any physical activity is important to prevent dehydration.
- Listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Taking regular breaks and using appropriate flotation devices will prevent overexertion and fatigue.
- Use the buddy system.
It’s always advisable to swim with a companion, especially for seniors. Having someone with you increases safety and provides assistance when and if needed. Plus, it’s more fun with a friend!
Gardening is a great activity for seniors to get outdoors and stay active while connecting with nature—whether potting plants, growing vegetables, or even just pulling weeds. There are several physical and mental benefits of gardening, such as enhancing small motor skills, increasing strength and flexibility, and providing a sense of accomplishment. Studies have shown that regardless of whether someone is actively gardening or just “in” the garden, this type of engaging with nature has positive therapeutic effects. For seniors with limited ability, raised beds or container gardening are a great option.
Safety Tips for Seniors While Gardening:
Outdoor gardening can be a low-impact or high-impact activity, tailored to one’s physical ability and health. Regardless of age, certain precautions should be taken to stay safe while gardening.
- Use appropriate tools.
Tool safety is important for anyone. But, If hand-eye coordination is impaired or hands are unsteady, sharp tools should be avoided or used only with the help of a caregiver/companion.
- Be mindful of clothing.
Lightweight clothing can keep you cool, but working in certain areas of the garden may require covering up (think bugs, branches, etc.). A wide-brimmed hat for sun protection and sunscreen are also advised.
- Stay hydrated and take breaks.
Ensure adequate water intake and take breaks to sit in the shade. Allowing your body to rest will help you recharge.
- Check for hazards.
Before starting, remove tripping hazards such as hoses and tools. Avoid uneven ground and the use of tools that are too heavy.
- Take care of your body.
Using appropriate gloves, knee pads, and maintaining proper posture will avoid strains and injuries. Don’t overdo it!
While there are so many more activities seniors can enjoy in the summer, it’s important to be mindful of the unique hazards summer heat presents for older adults. For many seniors, having a caregiver accompany and/or assist them means the ability to get outside and participate in enjoying the sunshine. At Just Like Family Home Care, our qualified caregivers are here to ensure you or your loved one can continue to enjoy favourite hobbies safely and with peace of mind. If you would like to speak with someone to find out more about our services, please get in touch!