A brief background to the system
How does the summertime relate to our age? And are we affected during the hot weather?
Our body can be viewed as a machine that consists of many cells that, when doing the same function, creates a tissue. Collection of tissues in turn make up an organ that constitute an organ system (e.g. digestive system). These systems working together creating the human body as a whole. Our body, like any machine, gets older and function less efficiency as its parts gets older. However, like a machine, when cared for well will run more efficiently for longer.
All cells experience changes. Many cells lose their ability to function to a certain degree, or they begin to function abnormally (Masoro 2012).
Inevitably therefore, as we age our organ systems gradually loses function. For example, blood vessels undergo changes and become more rigid and eventually, cells have more trouble getting nutrients.
In the individual level, as we grow older we become a little slower and need more time and energy for normal daily activities. Eating for example, whereas younger individuals can eat three big meals a day and at any time they wanted to, older people consume less food and digestion time takes longer and more effort. These changes vary between people and presented differently.
Knowing that, we must take extra care that our body will grow older in an optimal way and avoid un-necessary physiological and psychological stresses.
Active aging, according to the World Health Organization, is defined as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security which in turn enhances quality of life as people age”. In order to extend life expectancy and quality, it is recommended to participate in society with safe environment and include: social, physiological and cognitive activities as part of the daily living routine. Doing physical activity evidently reduces health risks (e.g. reduced bone density or high blood pressure) and therefore extend life expectancy compared with individuals living sedentary life style. In addition, physical activity is a great opportunity for spending time with friends (social conduct). Moreover, with regard to cognitive aspect, studies have shown that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia (a prevalent condition amongst elderly) by about 30 per cent.
Warm weather during summer and outdoor activity generally go hand in hand. However, it is important for older individuals to take precautions and to avoid health problems often caused by hot weather.
The followings are a few recommendations to consider during the summertime:
- Dehydration- the skin becomes more elastic and thin as we age (e.g. wrinkles) and increases its overall surface area exposed to the elements. This leads to an increase in water loss from the body. For that reason, it is recommended to increase the water intake in general and on hot days in particular (THHI, 2016).
- Not understanding weather conditions- older people, particularly those at increased risk due to previous health conditions should stay indoors on especially hot and humid days. However, if decided to do an outdoor activity on a hot day, use sun-protection cream and make sure to drink sufficient amount of water (on average 2-3L per day).
- Visiting overcrowded places- in order to reduce risks of fall, trips should be scheduled during non-rush hour times and participation in special events should be carefully planned.
- Overdressing-because elderly may have reduced sensitivity to heat, it is important to dress appropriately. Perhaps a friend or family member can help to select proper clothing. Natural fabrics such as cotton are best!
Enjoy the summertime…
- Masoro EJ. The physiology of aging. In: Boron WF, Boulpaep EL, eds. Medical Physiology. Updated 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 62.
- World Health Organization/Europe http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/159977/WHD_toolkit_2012_EURO_Version.pdf?ua=1
- Hydration for health initiave. Hydration in the ageing. 2016. Retrieved 24/02/2016. URL: http://www.h4hinitiative.com/book/print/63