Sun Protection as a Senior: Things to Keep in Mind
As beneficial as the sun can be, too much exposure can also be harmful. Among seniors, this risk is multiplied given that our immune systems weaken with age. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, only 15% of older adults regularly use sun protection. On top of this, some 1 in 10 seniors have already been sunburned in the past year. This may not seem like too big of a deal, but consider that most cases of skin cancer occur in those aged 65 and older. In the case of melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, an article by SymptomFind reveals that 106,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, with men being most at risk. Also, white people are more likely to develop the disease than other races; in fact, they're up to 20 times more likely to suffer.
To prevent this from happening to you or your senior loved ones as you enjoy the outdoors, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
Dehydration is a serious adverse effect of prolonged sun exposure, and seniors are at particular risk of this, reports US News. According to studies, this is because both the body's thirst sensation and its ability to conserve water decrease with age. If left untreated, dehydration can cause confusion, fatigue, reduced coordination, and decreased cognitive ability.
To prevent this, make sure to keep fluids with you as often as possible. Ideally, these should be drinks like water, unsweetened fruit juices, or electrolyte-rich (and low-sugar) drinks. Since some seniors have specific fluid intake specifications, consider asking your doctor for their recommendation for outdoor activities, too. By doing so, you can make it easier to keep yourself refreshed and hydrated.
Use broad-spectrum sunscreen
For seniors, sunscreen can prevent extensive sun damage and discoloration. Since sun exposure is partly what contributes to sunspots, rough texture, and wrinkles, sunscreen can also complement your wellness regimen.
For the utmost protection, look for sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection, with a minimum of SPF 30. These distinctions mean that the sunscreen can block both UVB and UVA rays. As an added bonus, you can also try to find a sunscreen with anti-aging skincare ingredients such as retinoids and peptides. These are skin-refining components that will complement the protection your sunscreen offers. For sensitive skin, opt for a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide as the active ingredient. As an added bonus, this type of sunscreen is less likely to contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Avoiding these two ingredients that are still being researched for safety also makes it easier on the coral reefs of our planet.
As advised by medical experts, make sure to apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exposure. Throughout the day, you should also reapply every two hours, so long as you're staying outside (or you're in and out).
Wear the right protective clothing
It may be an afterthought for many, but you shouldn't neglect protective clothing either. In fact, many specialists say that protective clothes should be as prominent in our minds as sunscreen when it comes to sun safety practices. In the FDA’s official sun protection guidelines, the administration suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-rimmed hats. Seniors should try looking for cotton and linen versions of these clothes. The breathability of those textiles will help keep your body cool without restricting your breathing. If you also wear glasses, consider investing in a pair with photochromic lenses. This way, you can still see clearly while protecting your eyes from damage. And if you’re planning to do strenuous activities outside, try opting for wraparound glasses instead. These will block UV rays and prevent glare.
Try to time your outdoors jaunts
Although it’s not often mentioned, you should be mindful of the time you choose to go outside, too. Those with a polished skin tanning routine will say that between 10am and 4pm is when the sun is the strongest. Hence, depending on your personal preference, this can be the window to avoid or aim for. If you’re purposefully looking for bright sunlight, then go out in the aforementioned period of time. However, if you just want to increase your Vitamin D production, then noon is preferable.
Aside from choosing the time to go out, remember to also spend time in the shade. Continuous sun exposure is often most harmful, so try to put shade breaks in between instead.
The benefits of getting quality sunlight are plentiful, and backed by science. From improvements in your mood to better healing, the positive effects of the outdoors should absolutely be taken advantage of –– especially by seniors! As with so many things however, moderation is key. By being mindful about your sun exposure practices, you’re ensuring that you have many more happy years under the sun. But remember that you have other options as well! Aside from being under the sun, you can try out other invigorating activities, such as dancing. Discover more benefits in the article ‘Dancing Prevents Senior Decline: Improves Daily Living’.