As we recently discussed on this blog, outdoor activities can have powerful benefits for the physical and mental health, well-being, and overall quality of life of our beloved senior community.
However, getting older can bring with it new challenges, and outdoor safety activities are worth taking seriously.
Mobility issues are common for older adults, and the risk of serious injury can be higher than for younger people. Moreover, factors ranging from dehydration, overheating, bug bites, and more can be especially dangerous for seniors.
On the other hand, a few simple preventative measures can go a long way towards keeping you or your elderly loved one safe and secure.
From better cardiovascular, cognitive, and mental health, to lower blood sugar, stress, and risk of ailments like dementia, osteoporosis, and stroke, there are plenty of health-boosting benefits to getting moving outside.
To discover eight outdoor safety tips that will help seniors enjoy the great outdoors for years to come, continue reading.
8) Walk Safely
Whether walking in an urban, suburban, or rural area, there are a few steps seniors can take to make sure they stay safe. For example, try to walk only in daylight, when visibility is best, and stick to sidewalks or pathways that are smooth and even, without tripping hazards.
Additionally, try to find a route that offers plenty of places to stop and rest and stay alert, especially when crossing streets.
7) Plan Ahead
Remember, planning for safety begins at home! Check the weather before you leave, and make sure you are dressed appropriately. Wear sturdy, comfortable, slip-proof footwear that is appropriate for the types of surfaces you’re planning to walk on; shoes with Velcro straps are easy, secure, and help prevent injury.
Additionally, bring your identification, mobile phone, and some cash with you, especially if you will be walking alone. Finally, it’s never a bad idea to let someone know where you’re planning on going, just in case something should happen.
6) Prevent Sun Over-Exposure
Our skin gets thinner as we age, and it becomes more difficult to regulate body temperature. Too much sun can lead to dehydration and even heat stroke for seniors, so bring plenty of sunblock with at least 30 SPF and broad-spectrum protection, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and take plenty of breaks in the shade.
To further lower the risk of heat stroke, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and avoid going out during the hottest part of the day.
5) Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is a much higher risk for seniors than younger people, especially if they regularly take diuretic medication. Drink plenty of water before leaving the house is a good idea, but carrying a bottle of water with you is an even better one. Take sips every so often, regardless of whether or not you feel thirsty.
For some seniors, water alone may not be enough, and an electrolyte drink like Gatorade or Pedialyte might be advisable. Check with a healthcare professional to discuss the best hydration option for your needs.
4) Prevent Bug Bites
Getting outdoors raises the risk of insect stings and bites. Although seniors’ skin can be more sensitive to chemicals usch as those in insect repellent, the effects of bug bites can range from frustrating itch to an allergic reaction, so it’s worth talking to your doctor about an effective bug spray that won’t be too harsh for sensitive skin.
3) Pay Attention to Medication
There may be no better way to stay safe during outdoor activities than to maintain good overall health. For many seniors, that means good medication management. That means your medication is up-to-date, organized, and stored correctly. Many medications can degrade if exposed to temperatures of 86 degrees. Double-check any medications that need to be refrigerated, and ask your doctor if your medicine may become less effective during a heatwave.
For tips on effective elderly medication management, take a look at this blog post.
2) Take Precautions Against Covid-19
The risk of becoming severely ill from a Covid-19 infection rises with age. That’s why the CDC recommends that adults 65 years and older receive an approved vaccine to help prevent serious sickness.
Even for those who are vaccinated, however, it’s important to take some common-sense steps. Try to avoid indoor gatherings where any guests are currently ill or have tested positive for coronavirus, and make sure to follow any safety guidelines that apply in your area.
1) Know When to Stay In
On very hot days, when ultraviolet radiation and sun exposure risk are high, it may be best to limit outdoor activity to the morning or evening, and avoid the midday sun.
The sun is strongest between 10:00am and 4:00pm, so it may be a good idea to stay home in the air conditioning between those hours. This is especially true during the summer, when heat is a factor, but sun exposure is a risk during these hours any time of the year.
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