I remember going to stay with my grandparents during the summer when I was growing up. They had a farm and I would spend the days playing outside and “helping” (see: tagging along and asking a myriad of questions) my grandfather with his daily duties. Whenever I became thirsty and would ask for something to drink he would give me a bottle of water from his truck or the fridge in his workshop. Like most kids, I would have preferred that water to be some kind of delicious, syrupy carbonated drink instead but I would drink it anyways.
When we would come inside, my grandmother would have two glasses of ice water waiting for us on the counter. She would ask if we made sure we had been staying hydrated. As a child, I didn’t really understand the importance of hydration but as I got older and involved in sports I quickly saw the value of drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
I understand that staying hydrated is always going to be a good practice, no matter the age. In fact, now I ask my grandparents if they are staying hydrated. Hydration is a key factor in helping seniors lead safer, healthier lives.
Research indicates that seniors are far more likely to experience adverse health effects from insufficient levels of fluid than younger adults. As such, they are also more prone to dehydration. Changes in their bodies related to aging makes it more difficult for seniors to retain water. On average, seniors have 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.
So why should seniors stay hydrated?
5 Reasons to Stay Hydrated:
- Medical Conditions and Illnesses – Certain medical conditions like influenza, high blood sugar, and digestive problems are more common in seniors and can contribute to poor water retention and dehydration.
- Medications – Most medications that seniors take are diuretics, which can increase fluid loss. Medications for high blood pressure, kidney, liver, and heart disease also play a part.
- Decreased in Renal Function – Kidney function, in general, declines with age and becomes less sensitive to the anti-diuretic hormone our body produces to regulate water balance.
- Inconvenience of Going to the Bathroom – Incontinence, weak bladders, and frequent urination can cause seniors to be reluctant to consume large amounts of fluids. As seniors become less mobile, going to the bathroom becomes more of a hassle which also adds to a decline in fluid consumption.
- Decline in Thirst Response Mechanisms – Studies show that the region of our brain responsible for detecting hydration and controlling thirst levels becomes less active with age, causing seniors to underestimate their level of dehydration.
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization among people over 65. So what can we do to ensure that they are consuming the appropriate amount of fluids every day?
Tips for Increasing Hydration Levels:
- Encourage Fruit and Vegetables with Every Meal – Fruits and vegetables contain over 75% of water as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Two or three servings of fruits or vegetables with every meal will increase fluid levels.
- Creative Water Breaks – Look for opportunities to offer water, like after a walk or while you sit in the sun.
- Sparkling Water and Vegetable Juice – So maybe these alternatives do not taste as good as soda, but they can reduce spices in blood sugar and unnecessary calorie consumption.
- Be Smart about Where to Use Salt – Not only does the amount of salt matter, but the type of salt you use can also make a difference. Unrefined sea salt is lower in sodium than most table salt.
The average senior citizen needs approximately 2 quarts of fluids every day to maintain a healthy life. Remember that the important thing is not changing behavior but getting creative in how you introduce water into their lives. For more information, visit www.greatoaksmanagement.com.