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jackson-senior-gardeningSome of the best Southern traditions grew out of ways to beat the summer heat. Porch sitting, sweet tea, and ice-cream socials all stem from people trying to find ways to enjoy time with their loved ones in a time before air conditioning.

Thankfully we have climate control today, but it’s still nice to enjoy these wonderful parts of summertime in Tennessee. Even with modern amenities, however, it’s important to know how to stay cool and hydrated throughout the summer months People of all ages are susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration, which can become dangerous, or at the very least put a damper on your seasonal activities.

Elderly people need to be especially careful about staying hydrated. The amount of water the human body retains can decrease by as much as 10% as we age. The average adult is about 60% water physiologically, while the average senior is more like 52%. That makes it extra important to sip fluids throughout the day and maintain as high a percentage of water in the body as possible. Seniors may also experience difficulty swallowing or medication side effects that cause dry mouth or a deceased ability to retain water. Kidney function may also be affected. If you get into the habit of drinking small amounts of water every time you take medication, with meals, and in between activities, you’ll find you’ve got a steady intake throughout the day.

Regency Retirement Village of Jackson’s caring staff members are trained to keep residents healthy and help them maintain proper body temperature and hydration, as well as recognize at symptoms of summer ailments. However, extreme heat can affect anyone, young or old, and even outdoor pets. Everyone should make sure to drink plenty of water — as opposed to coffee, soda, or Southerners’ beloved sweet tea — and pay special attention to any symptoms such as mouth dryness, infrequent urination or urine that is a dark or deep yellow, cramping in limbs, headaches, the inability to cry tears, a general feeling of weakness or malaise, low blood pressure, rapid but weak pulse, dry or sunken eyes, or change in pace of breath. These are signs of dehydration that could be dangerous if not immediately treated.

One of the easiest ways to stay hydrated is to avoid getting overheated in the first place. Try to plan outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day— before noon or after 4PM. During those hottest hours of the day, you might want to go to the movie theater or the mall, or enjoy an outing to an indoor attraction in Memphis or Nashville like museums, shops, and galleries. Seek out air conditioned spaces and carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. You can even keep bottles of water in the freezer so they are extra cold and stay chilled throughout your errands or adventures.

And remember — there’s always those tried and true methods for spending time with loved ones while staying cool. Grab a glass of tea (sweet or unsweet) and set a spell, whether it’s on the porch or in the living room. These long summer days are made for visiting!