For many people, the beach is the pinnacle of summer activity. Relaxing along the coast can have many mental and physical health benefits, but spending all day in the sun can also be risky. This is especially true for seniors, as their bodies are more sensitive to the heat. With the proper precautions, however, the whole family can enjoy some fun in the sun.

Plan ahead
When planning a beach day with seniors, it’s important to map out all aspects of the trip to prevent any issues. Start by choosing your location. Perhaps you have a favorite local beach, or maybe the whole family is heading out on an adventurous vacation. Wherever the destination may be, make sure you have reliable transportation for the elderly members of your party. While younger people may have no problem walking half a mile from the hotel to the shore, this journey can be too hot and strenuous for your senior loved ones. Consider driving to the beach instead, or have someone drop off older family members if there’s nowhere to park.

“Assist seniors with climbing over dunes or down stairs.”

Many times, arriving at the beach parking lot is only half the battle. If actually getting to your shoreline of choice requires walking down stairs or over dunes, have someone assist seniors with this process as well.Trekking along the sand can be difficult, especially for those with mobility or balance issues, so your loved ones may need a stable arm to hold while he or she focuses on footing. Additionally, seniors require more beach items than just a towel and a pair of sunglasses, so they will need help carrying their belongings along the sand as well.

Get the right gear 
In order for seniors to have a good time at the beach, they need the proper equipment. If they plan on taking a dip in the ocean, take them shopping for swimsuits that they feel comfortable in. Make sure they have light, loose layers of clothing on when simply relaxing on shore, however, as exposing their skin to the sun for long periods of time could cause them to burn or overheat. It’s also a good idea to equip seniors with hats, sunglasses or even an umbrella, which can also help protect them from harmful UV rays.

“Seniors need supportive beach seating.”

While you may prefer to lounge on a towel all day, seniors require more supportive seating. Traditional beach chairs tend to be uncomfortably low to the ground for many people, especially those with limited mobility. Because seniors may need help getting in and out of seats that settle into the sand, make sure they have chairs that are raised to a comfortable level for them. If you’re unsure what their preferences may be, take them to the store and have them try out different options before heading to the coast.

It’s also a good idea to get senior relatives a pair of supportive sandals. Because sand can get extremely hot, and flimsy flip flops can increase the risk of falling, get them a pair of shoes that have soles with good traction and straps that will keep their feet secure. Additionally, make sure your loved ones have plenty of activities to do. Because they may not be able to play in the sand with the kids or go swimming, offer to pack them a bag with books, magazines, crafts, cards or other activities they can participate in while relaxing in the sun.

Help your senior loved ones have safe and healthy beach days this summer.
Help your senior loved ones have safe and healthy beach days this summer.

Be vigilant about sun safety
One of the biggest risks seniors face at the beach is the possibility of overheating. According to the American Red Cross, people’s bodies respond differently to heat as they age. Seniors don’t sweat as much as younger people, and therefore don’t realize how hot they are until their bodies are in danger of developing heat stroke. Because of this, it’s important to help them be proactive about cooling off. In addition to driving them to the beach and encouraging them to wear loose, covering clothing, there are a few ways you can help your loved ones stay comfortable and healthy in the heat.

  • Bring plenty of water: Hydration is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy body temperature. Bring a cooler filled with ice water and encourage your older relatives to drink it throughout the day. This is especially important if they are being active or drinking alcohol, as these can quicken the dehydration process.
  • Set up an umbrella or tent: Create some shade where your loved ones can spend time if they start feeling tired or overheated. When you first get to the beach, set up a large umbrella or a beach tent in case the sun gets too hot to handle. If your beach has a bathhouse or snack bar, encourage your relatives to head inside occasionally to ensure their comfort.
  • Slather on the sunscreen: Sunburns are not only a major cause of skin damage, but they’re also painful and can contribute to dangerously high body temperatures. Encourage everyone in your group to apply lotion with a high SPF regularly throughout the day, and assist seniors with covering their backs, legs and other areas they may have trouble reaching.
  • Take medications into account: Visiting Angles explained that some drugs have side affects that are triggered by prolonged sun exposure. Many times, they can increase the risk of sunburns and heatstroke. Go over the labels on your senior loved ones’ medications before you head to the beach.

Before going to the shore with seniors, know how to identify heatstroke. If you notice your loved ones developing any of the symptoms of this illness, get them out of the sun immediately.

Swim safely 
Wading in the water is an excellent way for seniors to cool down, but the ocean is also full of safety risks. If your relatives may want to swim, set up camp near a lifeguard stand so someone can help in the event of an emergency. Additionally, Visiting Angels recommended asking lifeguards about rip currents, as it’s difficult to tell from shore whether these natural safety risks will be an issue. If currents are strong, advise seniors to remain on shore. The same applies for waves – if they’re big and appear to be crashing right as they hit shore, conditions may be too risky for older swimmers.

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