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How to Stay Hydrated: 7 Helpful Tips for Seniors

Healthcare | August 11, 2023

A happy older man drinking from a bottle of water after learning about the importance of hydration for seniors.

While summer can be an exciting time for many to spend days outdoors, relax by the pool, and enjoy family picnics – for seniors and older adults, summer can bring about health risks such as overheating and dehydration. In a study by NIH, they discovered up to 40% of older adults suffer from chronic dehydration.

Older adults find themselves at a higher risk of dehydration due to common bodily changes as they age. From lower amounts of water in the body to a decrease in kidney function, seniors who don’t get enough water can face serious health consequences.

Dehydration may be a notable problem for seniors, especially during the summer months, but it doesn’t mean that seniors can’t take steps to make the most of the warmer weather. Let’s take a look at why seniors are more at risk for dehydration, how overheating can impact you, and what you can do to stay hydrated throughout your retirement.

Why is Dehydration Common in Older Adults?

It may surprise you that older adults, generally, get progressively less thirsty as they age. While doctors may not fully understand why, thirst levels in adults older than 65 are commonly far lower than the body’s actual need for fluids. Because of this decreased level of thirst, many seniors do not drink as much as they did in their younger days.

As seniors age, their kidneys naturally lose some of their ability to conserve water. This results in a greater amount of fluid loss when seniors use the bathroom. Additionally, age-related health conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia can further put older adults at risk of dehydration. Over-the-counter and prescription medications that are used to treat other health conditions in older adults can also result in dehydration.

These issues, combined with the increased temperatures of the summer months, contribute to the increased likelihood of dehydration in older adults. To stay hydrated and lower the risk of serious health issues, seniors need to be aware of the symptoms and signs of dehydration.

What Happens When Seniors Get Dehydrated?

Even mild dehydration can cause a wide array of uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms. Understanding the warning signs can help you take action before the situation becomes severe.

Symptoms of dehydration in seniors includes:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine, urinating less frequently
  • Fatigue, or feeling weak
  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps in arms or legs
  • Dry mouth

A study found that 37% of men and women 65 and older admitted to the emergency room were facing dehydration. Being aware of the early signs of dehydration is critical to a long and healthy retirement. Seniors should pay attention to these symptoms and talk with their doctor if they believe they are experiencing dehydration.

How much water do you need to stay hydrated?

The amount of water you need to drink per day will depend on several factors. A general baseline was laid out by The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine – encouraging men to drink 125 ounces and women to drink 91 ounces of water per day. These guidelines will vary greatly depending on the person, as their fluid intake needs are likely to be unique to their situation. Additional factors to consider include activity level, how your body regulates water, and how much fruit and vegetables you eat.

While a good rule of thumb for the average person is to drink when thirsty, seniors should follow the best practices and tips laid out below to make sure they are getting enough fluids.

7 Hydration Tips for Seniors

Set Reminders

It can be difficult to remember to drink enough water every day. This is especially true for older adults who may have memory challenges or reduced thirst sensitivity due to aging-related changes in their bodies. Setting timers or using smartphone apps as friendly reminders throughout the day can help you remember to stay hydrated.

Additionally, you can always keep water with you to have easy access to hydration when your reminder notifies you it’s time to have a drink.

Stay Hydrated with Other Beverages

While you should try and prioritize drinking water as your primary source of hydration, there are other ways to increase fluid intake as well. Consider incorporating herbal teas or natural fruit juices into your routine for added variety and flavor. By switching up your beverage options, you can take more enjoyment in staying hydrated.

While considering other beverages to add to your hydration plan, you should also try and avoid or reduce your coffee and alcohol intake. Alcohol and coffee are diuretics, which means it prompts your body to remove fluids from your bloodstream. Limiting these types of beverages can help your body hang on to more of the water it needs to thrive.

Include Hydrating Foods to Your Diet

Certain fruits such as watermelon not only provide essential vitamins to your diet but also contribute towards keeping you hydrated. Including hydrating snacks like cucumber slices or grapes between meals is a fantastic way of getting more fruits and veggies in your diet, but also meeting your hydration needs.

Other foods that are high in water content include: 

  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Soups

Have a Hydration Buddy

Staying motivated is made all the easier when you have a friend by your side. Find a hydration buddy that can help you keep accountable for staying hydrated. From reminding each other to have a drink to assisting in refills, hydration buddies are a great way to improve your fluid intake.

Try Flavored Water

If you find plain water boring, experiment with infused waters to add some spice to your hydration plan. Simply mix in slices of fruits like lemon, lime or even cucumber into your glass of water and let it sit for an hour before drinking – voila! Refreshing taste achieved!

You may also consider switching up water with other options such as low-sugar sports drinks or protein and nutritional shakes specifically designed for seniors.

Hydrate Beyond Thirst

As we age our body’s sense of thirst may diminish. By the time seniors feel thirsty, there is a chance that they are already facing dehydration. It’s important that older adults consciously drink fluids regularly, regardless of if they feel thirsty or not.

Create a Plan with Your Doctor

It’s critical to consult your healthcare professional to get a better understanding of how much water you need every day. Certain senior care specialists can help you set individualized goals related specifically to hydration requirements given any underlying medical conditions you may have.

Finding a community that can encourage you to meet your hydration and greater health goals is critical to a long and prosperous retirement. National Church Residences offers quality senior living options around the country and strives to help our residents enhance their quality of life. Use our online community finder to find a community that’s right for you.

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