UV safety is essential for people of all ages, but it becomes particularly crucial for older adults. Simply put, UV rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. They can penetrate the skin, leading to various skin problems and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Risk of Skin Cancer
As we age, our skin becomes thinner and more fragile, making it more susceptible to damage from UV (ultraviolet) radiation. Furthermore, cumulative sun exposure over a lifetime increases the risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. “Each year in the United States, more than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer at a cost of about $8.1 billion. Most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age (CDC).
Focus on Prevention
Older adults should be aware of the heightened risks too much UV exposure brings and take proactive measures to protect themselves. Here are five simple ways to protect your skin and eyes:
1. Seek Shade and Time It Right
When spending time outdoors, it’s important to seek shade and avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours, typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest and pose the greatest risk. Plan outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense.
2. Apply and Reapply Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is a crucial step in UV protection. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply it generously to all exposed skin, including the face, neck, ears, and hands. Remember to reapply every two hours, especially after sweating or swimming. And remember, wearing sunscreen is not just a seasonal practice or something you do only when heading to the beach. It should be an integral part of your daily skincare routine, regardless of the weather or the activities you have planned.
3. Protect Your Eyes
UV rays can harm your eyes, increasing the risk of conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. When going outside, wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Opt for wraparound styles or those with large lenses to provide maximum coverage. If you wear prescription glasses, consider getting lenses with UV protection. Learn more about choosing the right sunglasses.
4. Stay Hydrated
Proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Drink plenty of water, especially during hot weather, to keep your skin hydrated from within. Consider incorporating fruit or vegetable juices and electrolyte-rich drinks to enhance your hydration routine. Remember to limit alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate your body and affect the appearance of your skin.
When it comes to UV safety, dressing smartly can provide an additional layer of protection for your skin. Opt for Protective Fabrics. Look for clothing with a tight weave or a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. Fabrics such as tightly woven cotton, linen, nylon, or polyester are great choices.
Covering up exposed areas of your body is a smart strategy to protect your skin from direct sunlight. Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and skirts that provide coverage. Dark-colored clothing tends to absorb more UV rays, so opt for lighter shades that reflect sunlight. And don’t forget the accessories. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection…and style!
Liz Craven, co-publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide with her husband Wes, combines personal experience and heartfelt dedication in her work. Their journey in eldercare began with a personal story—caring for Wes' grandmother, Mabel, who lived with Alzheimer's. This chapter in their lives not only highlighted the complexities of eldercare but also kindled a deep-seated passion to support others facing similar challenges. Since then, Liz and Wes have navigated caregiving three more times. These experiences have added layers of depth to their insights, allowing them to offer a blend of empathetic understanding and practical advice through the Sage Aging ElderCare Guide. Liz’s commitment to making eldercare more approachable and less daunting shines through in every piece of advice she offers, aiming to ease the caregiving journey for others.