May has had a cool, rainy start this year, but this is Oklahoma so get ready—it will soon be downright hot outside. And while it’s wonderful to have the sunshine and all its benefits, too much sun can have negative consequences. As another Tulsa summer approaches, there are several sun safety tips to keep in mind, especially for seniors.
With more older adults living longer, lifelong skin health is more important than ever. Using smart sun protection, remembering safe sun exposure rules and applying these sun safety tips for seniors are all strategies to keep yourself and your skin safe this summer.
Sun Safety Facts
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year, at a cost of around $8.1 billion. And most of those skin cancer cases are in people over 65. Yet less than half of older adults protect their skin when they’re outside for more than an hour on a warm, sunny day.
You may have wondered, “Why do I sunburn so easily now?” – especially if you didn’t burn much when you were younger. The fact is, our skin becomes more delicate and vulnerable as we age. Over the years, skin loses fat and water content and becomes thinner, which allows UV light to penetrate more deeply.
When you consider that, with an area of about 20 square feet, your skin is your body’s largest organ, it’s vital to take care of it all.
You may be tempted to protect your skin simply by avoiding the sun altogether. Dermatologists are often asked at what age people should have no sun exposure. But exposure to sunlight has a number of benefits for our bones, brain, mood and sleep. Humans need Vitamin D, which we only produce naturally through sun exposure. Plus, exposure to sunlight is linked to improved sleep patterns for seniors.
So don’t avoid the sun – enjoy it! But do remember that the best sun protection for seniors is to know how to be smart and safe when you’re outside.
Sun Protection Tips for Seniors
- Start with sunscreen. A common question is, “What’s the best sunscreen for seniors?” The initial answer will invariably be, ANY sunscreen is better than NO sunscreen. But most dermatologists suggest using sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, between 30 and 50. Sunscreen should also provide what’s called “broad spectrum protection,” which means it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Also, your sunscreen should be water-resistant, optimally for up to 80 minutes.
- Don’t think it’s one and done. You need to reapply your sunscreen about every two hours. Don’t forget to cover your ears, tops of your feet, tops of your hands – even your scalp can get burned unless you wear a hat.
- Don’t be skimpy. Sunscreen is something you definitely want to slather on. Experts recommend using at least two tablespoons of sunscreen at a time (or more, depending on how much skin will be exposed). They also suggest applying your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you plan to go outside, which helps allow the active ingredients to work effectively.
- Protection isn’t all in the sunscreen. Because the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., consider staying out of the sun at that time. Also wear a sun hat, long sleeves and long pants, and protect your eyes with sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Bonus Sun Safety Tip: Drink Up
Did you know our sense of thirst diminishes as we age? Even when your body needs to be replenished with water, you may not realize it. And the common symptoms of dehydration in seniors, such as dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue and less frequent urination, can easily be attributed to other medical conditions or medications.
By the time you DO realize you’re thirsty, you may already be in the early stages of dehydration, a common cause of hospitalization in older adults. But there’s an easy way to combat dehydration: Stay hydrated! Although everyone’s hydration needs vary, a good rule of thumb is one cup of water for every 20 pounds of body weight per day. But keep in mind, you may need more during the heat of an Oklahoma summer.
If that sounds like too much water, you can mix it up by eating foods with a high water content, like watermelon, oranges, cucumbers and peaches, or by adding flavored juice to your water. But avoid alcohol or caffeine, since both have a diuretic effect (which means your body eliminates more water than it should through your urine).
If water fills you up too quickly, try drinking little sips throughout the day. Drink something with every meal, as well as before and after you exercise.
Start This Summer at Saint Simeon’s
This year, imagine beginning your summer at our community. You’ll have 50 beautiful acres to enjoy in the scenic Osage Hills of Tulsa, along with a number of outdoor amenities, such as walking paths, gardens, patios, a koi pond and gazebo. There’s even more to discover inside!
Learn more about St. Simeon’s Senior Living Community by calling Mary at 918-794-1900, or click contact us to submit your information and someone will get in touch to answer your questions.