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Senior Sun Safety

Sun protection is important for seniors.

Summer is in full swing, with many people spending a good amount of time outdoors soaking up the sun. We all know the importance of applying sunscreen and keeping our skin protected, whether you are at the beach or the pool, or just working in the yard, keeping yourself protected is critical.

UV radiation (or ultraviolet light) is the number one cause of skin cancer in the United States. July marks UV Safety Month with the opportunity to provide reminders and additional safety information especially for the senior population. About one million people will develop some kind of skin cancer by the age of 65.

The ultraviolet rays of the sun break down elastic tissue in our skin. This causes skin to wrinkle, stretch and sag. Age spots and blotchy skin can also occur. Skin damage is cumulative. This means the older we get, the more skin damage we have accumulated.

The worst outcome of too much exposure to dangerous UV rays is skin cancer. There are a multitude of skin cancers that can occur, based on many factors. Light-skinned or persons with a fair complexion are more suspectible. Also more at risk are people with freckles or light-colored eyes like blue or green.

For the elderly population, keeping their skin hydrated and protected is especially important. Older skin can be thinner and less elastic, thus more prone to injury or sunburn when exposed to the sun's UV rays. Changes in our immune system as we age can also contribute to a senior person's increased susceptibility to the sun.

Many medications can have side effects that cause skin to be more sensitive to harmful UV rays. The list is quite long, and includes many antibiotics. Severe redness, rashes, sunburn and damage to skin tissue can occur.

It's recommended that anyone taking a medication that increases skin sensitivity should stay out of the sun. If being outdoors in unavoidable, wear dark, tightly-knitted clothes and lather up with an SPF of 15 or higher. Find the shade whenever you can and wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Your eyes are also susceptible to damaging UV rays. This is especially true for persons with blue or green eyes (or any lightly-colored eye).If your eyes are exposed to the sun for a short period of time, photokeratitis can occur. This is like a sunburn on the eye. The damage rarely causes permanent damage, but will cause your eyes to feel gritty, sensitive to light. Photokeratitis will also lead to excessive tearing.

Longer exposure to solar radiation can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. Remember that the damage from UV rays is cumulative, and this is also true for your eyes. Everyone, but especially seniors, should wear sunglasses that offer UV protection.

Some elderly persons may not think that it matters if they wear sunscreen – the thought being that the damage is already done. This is not true – while you cannot reverse the effects of sun damage, you can stop further skin injury from occurring. For seniors, keeping their skin healthy will help keep their overall body healthy.

Learn more about the services available for seniors in Illinois by visiting our website at

You can learn more about skin cancer at the American Cancer Society's website. Click here.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

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Heritage Operations Group is proud to provide the senior population in Illinois with rehabilitative therapy services, skilled nursing care, specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, assisted and supportive living, independent living and pharmacy services.


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