Most people know to be careful about the heat when heading outside on a hot day, but it’s just as important to stay cool indoors, especially for older adults. According to the CDC, people aged 65 and older are at an increased risk for heat-related health problems such as heat stress and exhaustion. Certain chronic health conditions and medications can affect body temperature and sweat production, making it hard for the body to naturally cool down. Even if a loved one’s home is air conditioned, they may still overheat depending on their level of activity and how well the house is able to hold the cooler temperatures.

Here are some ways you can help your loved one keep cool at home:


1.         Drink water

According to the CDC, older adults tend to drink less water than younger adults, even though they are at greater risk for dehydration. Encourage your loved one to regularly drink water or beverages that contain water, like fruit juice. Drinks like coffee, hot tea, caffeinated beverages and alcohol can have a diuretic effect, causing the body to lose fluid, so your loved one should avoid them in hot weather.


2.         Dress for the weather

Wearing breathable fabrics can help keep your loved one from getting overheated. On hot days, make sure they have loose fitting clothing options in natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Indoor weather can sometimes get chilly thanks to air conditioning, so it can help to provide your loved one with an easy to remove shawl or sweater if they get cold.


3.         Help the house stay cool

While air-conditioning and fans are running, close the windows and doors to rooms not being used to trap the cool air in the rooms your loved one is using. To keep the house extra cool, block cracks under doors with towels or insulation strips. If the house has a lot of windows, sunlight streaming inside can raise the temperatures indoors, so be sure to use shades or curtains when necessary.


4.         Don’t overuse the stove

Stoves can generate a lot of heat when in use. If dinner involves cooking something for long periods of time in the oven, it can make even an air-conditioned kitchens uncomfortably hot. On hot days, try avoiding recipes that use the stove. If you have to use it, run the kitchen’s exhaust fans to pull heat and steam from the room while cooking.


5.         Apply cold compresses

Cold compresses can help your loved one regulate their body temperature when they feel overheated. The compress should first be applied to their wrists, neck or temples to help quickly distribute the temperature lowering effects to the rest of the body. If you don’t have a compress, cold water bottles, a bag of ice cubes or even a bag of frozen vegetables make for good substitutes.


6.         Limit movement

Exercise is important for older adults, but on extremely hot days, demanding activities should be limited wherever possible to avoid dizziness and exhaustion. If it’s necessary for your loved one to do a lot of moving about the house during a hot day, they should cool their bodies back down with cold compresses, or a cool shower or bath. 


If your loved one shows signs of feeling faint, dizzy, fatigued, agitated, nauseous, confused or feverish in the heat, contact their doctor, especially if the symptoms last for more than an hour. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening and should be treated as soon as possible.


Written By: Julie Hayes, MS, Content Manager at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging