By Tim Ray, East County Service Center Director, Meals on Wheels San Diego County
August is Summer Sun Safety Month—and we’re talking about more than just sunscreen (though it’s important!). The San Diego region is known for its temperate climate, but to locals who have long since acclimated to the weather here, the summer heat can still be brutal.
This is especially true for our aging population. Our body’s ability to regulate heat wanes over time, leaving many seniors susceptible to heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other conditions. Symptoms can creep in out of nowhere, and their impacts can be life-threatening and sometimes even fatal.
For seniors, it is critical to stay a step ahead of the heat. Thankfully, there are some easy preventive measures to stay cool—and safe—during the hottest months of the year. Use these pointers and share them with a senior in your life.
- Find A/C when temperatures are on the rise. Stay in air-conditioned environments when temperatures start to hike. If you’re worried about a high electricity bill, consider finding public spaces—such as a library, mall, museum, or even Costco (a personal favorite)—to spend time during periods of extreme heat. The County of San Diego puts out a list of Cool Zones every year that seniors can reference to stay safe until high temperatures subside.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. We can’t emphasize this enough! Nothing is better for hydration than water. Keep a bottle of water near you at all times: at home, in your car, and with you wherever you go. If you grow weary of drinking plain water, try infusing fruit or electrolytes to mix things up. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages which can contribute to dehydration.
- Stay in the shade and avoid sunlight. Limit outdoor time to early mornings or evenings. If you must be outside in the afternoon, stay covered by shade, wear loose-fitting breathable clothing (fabrics like cotton, linen or chambray usually do the trick), and maintain hydration.
- Add a pedestal fan (or two) where you spend the most time in your home. While airflow probably won’t lower the temperature in a room, it does help sweat evaporate more quickly, allowing you to cool off in less time. Many organizations, including Meals on Wheels San Diego County, host fan drives for qualifying seniors in need during the summer months. This year, Meals on Wheels San Diego County collected over 150 fans to distribute to its senior clients in North County, South County, Metro area, and East County service centers.
- Mix up the menu with frozen and cooler-weather foods. Avoid using hot kitchen appliances and opt for cooler dishes, like smoothies, salads, and cold soup or noodle dishes. Fruits and veggies with high water content are a great snack for warm weather. For instance, freeze grapes for an icy, delicious treat that, as a bonus, satisfies sweet cravings.
- Use cold compresses to help regulate body temperature. Consider applying a cold compress to the back of the neck to provide relief from the heat. Some examples are cold water bottles, a bag of ice cubes, or even a bag of frozen vegetables.
By working in these small yet impactful steps to staying cool this summer, we can all mitigate the onset of heat-related illnesses. This summer check in on the seniors in your life—your loved ones, friends, and neighbors—to ensure they have what they need to stay cool. Bring over some fresh fruit or a case of water or invite them to your air-conditioned house or an activity for a break in their usual routine.
Want to learn more about helping vulnerable San Diego seniors? Meals on Wheels San Diego County needs volunteer drivers to deliver meals and care packages to seniors. It takes hundreds of volunteers each day to deliver meals. Learn more about volunteering and sign up at sandiegomealsonwheels.org.
Tim Ray is the East County Service Center Director at Meals on Wheels San Diego County, a nonprofit organization that supports the independence and well-being of seniors in need by delivering them nutritious meals. To see how you can get involved with Meals on Wheels San Diego County, visit sandiegomealsonwheels.org.