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Sun Safety for Seniors: 10 Tips to Protect Yourself

Healthcare | August 31, 2023

An older woman practicing sun safety for seniors.

As the golden years bring new opportunities for adventure, it’s important to make sure those outdoor adventures aren’t posing any problems. Every senior deserves some fun in the sun, but you’ll need to practice some sun safety to prioritize your health and well-being.

A direct dose of vitamin D can brighten one’s mood and a trip outside can be a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively. The problem is that overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to serious health risks. In this post, we’ll break down the dangers of overexposure and provide some practical sun safety tips for seniors.

The Dangers of Seniors Getting Too Much Sun

Sunshine provides numerous health benefits. Sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D and regulate melatonin secretion, which positively affect seniors’:

  • Bone health
  • Cognitive functions
  • Mood
  • Sleep quality
  • Physical and social activity

Sounds like sunlight is pretty helpful, right? Unfortunately, too much sun is a problem. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of overexposure due to changes in their skin, decreased immune response, and potential side effects of medications. Potential dangers of overexposure include:

  • Skin Damage: Your skin gets thinner and less elastic as you age. This change makes you more susceptible to sunburn, wrinkles, and skin damage. Even worse, prolonged exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancers, including melanoma.
  • Heat-Related Illnesses: As a senior, your body isn’t able to regulate its own temperature or tolerate heat, as it did before. This change puts you at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
  • Weakened Immune System: A weakened immune system can lead to several other problems. For example, seniors are more likely to develop skin infections caused by sunburn or minor cuts sustained while outside.
  • Eye Damage: You shouldn’t stare at the sun at any age, but UV rays can make eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration even worse.

10 Sun Safety Tips for Seniors

Despite the dangers of overexposure, less than half of older adults protect their skin when they’re outside for at least an hour. Fortunately, sun safety for seniors isn’t hard. By doing a little bit of work and planning, you can protect your skin from dangers both unpleasant and deadly. Follow these sun safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable time outdoors.

Choose the right time

Try not to go out when the sun rays are at their most dangerous. Time your outdoor activities during early morning or late afternoon when the sun is a lot less intense.

Wear protective clothing 

The less skin you have exposed, the better your odds are of avoiding sunburn. Dress in lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats to shield the skin from direct sunlight and keep yourself cool from the heat.

Apply sunscreen 

Sunscreen is one of the easiest ways for seniors to protect their skin and prevent heat stroke and other illnesses. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Seek shade

When possible, stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest. Shade is also a great way to cool yourself down if you ever start to overheat and need a break.

Protect your eyes

The sun’s radioactive rays can’t hurt your eyes if it can’t get to them. Wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays to safeguard your eyes from potential damage.

Stay hydrated

Staying cool inside and out is a big part of protecting yourself. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, particularly when spending time outdoors. You can also check out our post on how to stay hydrated to keep cool and refreshed.

Use sun-protective accessories

If it helps you stay cool and protected, it’s not a bad idea. Accessories like an umbrella can provide additional shade, while other items like battery-powered fans or a big sunhat can contribute to your outdoor adventures.

Check your medications

Some medications can have certain side effects that pose problems for sun exposure, such as increased sensitivity to sunlight. Consult a healthcare professional about potential side effects of your medications and what you should do to address those effects.

Regular skin checks

It’s good to be proactive even when you’re not in the sun. Perform regular self-examinations of your skin to monitor for any unusual moles, spots, or changes. Talk with a doctor if you spot any major changes or have any concerns.

Stay informed

The more you know about what’s happening outside, the better. Keep an eye on local weather reports for UV index information and adjust your outdoor plans accordingly.

Have Fun and Practice Proper Sun Protection for Seniors

The sun shouldn’t stop you from enjoying an active lifestyle. Following these sun safety tips can help you enjoy the great outdoors while minimizing the risk of potential health problems. Remember, a little precaution goes a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience during the golden years.

Are you looking for the right place to spend your retirement years? National Church Residences offers quality senior living options around the country that can help you live out your ideal lifestyle. Use our online community finder to find a retirement community that’s right for you.

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