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Sun Safety Tips For Seniors  | Generations Home Care
Older Women wearing a sun hat for sun safety

With summer in full swing and COVID-19 restrictions loosening, it’s a great time to get outside. However, lazy days by the pool and barbecues in the park present the ever-present danger of UV light. The negative effects of the sun can range from a nasty sunburn to skin cancer.  Seniors are especially at risk for skin cancers. However, they are also more likely to suffer harmful health effects as a result of not getting enough sun. The key is to find a balance of factors: the right kind of sunlight for the right amount of time, and all with the right precautionary measures. By taking these steps, seniors can ensure they’re making the most of the sun’s benefits while still paying attention to sun safety.

A Little Sun Goes A Long Way

Beaming down on us like the Eye of Sauron, the sun is a source of dangerous radiation. Of course, the sun is also a source of life-giving light, warmth, and vitamin D. This vitamin can help the body absorb nutrients like calcium and phosphorus, which in turn can help maintain strong bones. Deficiencies can contribute to ailments ranging from depression to cancer. 

Despite the plentitude of free summer sunlight, many people are vitamin D deficient. In fact, an estimated 41 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough of this crucial vitamin. A reduction in vitamin D production as we get older puts seniors at an even greater risk.

While it’s possible to absorb it from food, the most effective way to get vitamin D is from the sun. Getting between 10 and 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day is a great way to reap the benefits. However, the right amount of sun varies from person to person. People with darker skin have more melanin, which protects skin from sun damage. However, people with more melanin may need to spend more time in the sun to absorb the same amounts of vitamin D. Where you live also makes a difference. Higher altitudes receive stronger sun, and higher latitudes get weaker light. 

Of course, many people spend more than 30 minutes outside on a beautiful summer’s day. You can always get too much of a good thing, and sunlight is no different. Overexposure to the sun without protective measures is just as bad as not getting enough sunlight at all. 

Luckily, the methods of staying safe from UV light are varied. Seniors trying to find the right balance have a lot of options. 

Pick The Sun Coverage That Works For You

Sunscreen is an obvious go-to. Look for broad spectrum coverage, and make sure to use it throughout the day. Applying 20 minutes before going out into the sun is a good way to make sure you’re fully protected. 

Any sunscreen SPF 30 or higher will block 97 percent of harmful light. While higher SPFs block even more light, no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Therefore it’s important not to slap on some sunscreen and consider yourself covered. There are many strategies to protect your skin from the sun, and the safest method is to practice more than one. Finding shade is another good way to ensure you’re not damaging your skin. On the brightest days, stick to outings that allow for a bit of sun cover at midday. 

Manage Time Spent In The Sun

Of course, avoiding the sun entirely is also an option for those with delicate skin —but that doesn’t mean you have to live like a vampire. Seniors can avoid spending too much time outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If you do find yourself out on a sunny summer day at noon, stick to partial sun or shade. 

Another useful trick is to keep your skin covered entirely. Breathable materials like cotton and linen naturally keep you cool, while light-colored fabric helps reflect the sun’s heat. Some synthetics are even designed to protect against UV light. Grab a wide-brimmed hat on your way out the door to protect your face and neck. 

Cloudy days might seem like a respite from UV light. However, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate cloud cover. Furthermore, the strength of the UV light we experience every day is increasing. According to NASA, the American Southwest receives 6 percent more UV light than it did in the 1970s. This will make sun safety even more important in years to come, should those levels continue to climb. 

With such serious concerns, seniors should stay diligent about sun safety. Because each senior has different needs and mobility, having a helper around the house can ensure seniors stay protected. An in-home caretaker can work with seniors to create a sun-safety plan which balances time outside with UV protection. A caretaker can also keep an eye on seniors and help them remember to dress for the weather and reapply sunscreen when they’re out. If UV exposure is a serious concern, caretakers can also run errands that require being out in the sun. Generations Home Care is an excellent  option for personalized care, no matter the season or the weather. 

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.

About the author - Josh Friesen

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