ParentCare » Vol. 58

Simple changes to stay safe in the heat

Liz Foss

Have you ever noticed that as you get older, you like the temperature around you to be warmer? We grew up in a cool home in order to save on the heating bill, but when our parents were older, they kept the house nice and warm. Now, when we visit our children, we complain that their house is too cold. I guess we are destined to become like our parents in some ways!

Many seniors we work with keep their homes very warm. Our staff has learned to dress in layers. But when summer heat comes, sometimes it is too much of a good thing. How can seniors protect themselves from too much heat?

Here are some ideas from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Stay in a cool, air conditioned space. Public spaces such as senior centers, libraries, movie theaters and shopping malls are all places to try if your home is too warm. “Cooling areas” are set up in schools and other public spaces during a prolonged heat wave.
  • Take a cool shower or bath to cool down.
  • If you need to be outdoors, try not to schedule activities in the middle of the day when temperatures are highest. Wear sunscreen and loose, lightweight clothing. Pace yourself.
  • Try not to use the oven to cook, as it will heat up the house even more. Now’s the time for the grill!
  • Check on your neighbors and have them do the same for you.

While “official” advice is important and helpful, it’s interesting that some of the things our parents did to keep cool are coming around social media again as “life hacks.” For example:

  • Keep your blinds closed during the day.
  • Open the windows at night to let the cool air in, then close them during the day to keep the cool air in.
  • Place a bowl of ice in front of a fan at an angle that allows the fan to blow the cool air where you need it. Better than air conditioning!
  • Placing a cool, wet cloth on your neck or wrists can really help you to keep your cool.
  • Soak a hat with cold water. Wring it out before wearing.
  • If you still have a hot water bottle, try filling it and putting it in the freezer. Put it at the foot of the bed before you get in.
  • Another idea for the bed: Spraying the sheets with cool water before getting in to help you chill out.
  • Maintain different parts of the house at different temperatures, so everyone can stay comfortable and avoid “thermostat wars.” (We’ve all worked in offices where you had to wear a sweater even when it’s sweltering outside, right?)
  • Close off parts of the house not in use.
  • Move your bed to a lower level if possible. Remember sleeping out on the porch?

I guess it’s inevitable that many ideas that our parents have always used come around again as new – and not only those about how to stay cool when it’s hot outside. Here’s to enjoying the warm weather and staying safe!

Liz Foss runs the Worcester area Seniors Helping Seniors, a non-medical, in-home care agency. Having worked as an accountant for nonprofits for many years, Foss now has her own business, which hires active seniors to help people remain in their homes for as long as possible. Seniors Helping Seniors provides services in Worcester County. For more information, visit, call (508) 885-6004 or email Foss at

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