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With the Right Protection Seniors Can Bask in the Sun

Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers the body to protect from the sun's rays.

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The many dangers of sun exposure have been widely researched. While the sun has many healing effects, too much of this good thing can cause conditions such as skin cancer and lead to dehydration. Seniors may be particularly vulnerable and should seek help if needed to stay on top of any potential risks.

Q. My 78-year-old father, who’s in great physical shape, still loves to spend his summer days outdoors. Is that safe and what can he do to protect himself from the sun?

Many older Americans love to walk, garden, golf and fish. Seniors can enjoy the activities that they’ve always loved to do outdoors, but they should take precautions. The sun’s rays have been linked to dehydration and skin cancer, particularly for older Americans. According to the American Cancer Society, one risk factor for skin cancer – actinic keratoses (AKs) – occurs most often in those who are middle-aged or older with light skin who have been exposed to too much sun. Small, scaly patches on the face, ears, backs of the hands and arms characterize AKs.

That’s why sunscreen is so important. A study in the Archives of Dermatology found that survey participants who used sunscreen daily – even when they weren’t planning to be outside for extended periods – had developed 24 percent fewer AKs than those people who used sunscreen at their own discretion. Your dad should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on exposed areas and re-apply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming or perspiring.

In addition, your father can do the following to help protect himself from the dangers of sun and heat: whenever possible, seek shade; minimize sun exposure at Standard Time (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.); wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers the body; wear lightweight, light-colored clothing; wear UV-protective sunglasses; drink plenty of fluids; and check the UV index daily.

You can log in your ZIP and get the current UV rating for your area, along with an explanation of what it means. For more information, visit

Having companionship is another great way for your father to enjoy the outdoors. A friend or relative can always remind your dad to take good care of himself when he’s outside in the summer heat. Or he can hire a professional caregiver who can help him prepare for an outing and accompany him on the excursion.

The local Home Instead® makes every effort to match CAREGiversSM with clients of similar interests. With a CAREGiver, your father would enjoy the benefit of a companion who was also looking out for his best interests. By practicing safety in the sun, your father has a better chance of continuing to do what he loves outside.

Last revised: July 11, 2011

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