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Summer for Dummies: How to Beat The Heat When You're 50+

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Some days I think I am no smarter than your average roadside weed. That's because every year, come summer, I have to re-learn ways to stay cool and comfy when the temp goes over ninety. But then again, I had to re-read Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care after the birth of every one of my children, so the sieve brain issue is not new for me. If you, too, need a reminder about how best to take care of yourself in the summer heat, here's a Summer for Dummies refresher.

Take off your clothes

That's a no-brainer for teens, who strip down to short shorts and midriff thingies as soon as school is out. But for older people, each passing decade seems to bring a desire to cover up more and more of ourselves. In our culture, the sags and other signs of aging are to be hidden, and so we wear long sleeves and long pants when it's 100 degrees out. (Ever see beach pics of older people in other cultures? They just don their swimsuits like everybody else. None of this burqa-esgue hiding.)

So take off your clothes. Most of them, anyhow.

My spies tell me that there are women who even abandon their bras in the summer, not wanting to be wired into an extra layer. A sleeveless tank or cami under a light cotton top takes care of the too-revealing issue. Around the house, panties and a tank are adequate for women and certainly get the seal of approval of Cranky Pants, my mate, who walks around in nothing much himself.

Capris (also known as pedal pushers among the older set) are great for going out in the world. Kmart has a range of cotton capris for women that are just $6.98.

Neck coolers

These look like rolled bandana scarves and will keep a person comfortable in the heat. They have little beads sewn inside that will plump up when wet. First you soak the neck cooler in water to get the beads soaked and expanded. Then you put the scarf on and let the evaporation work to keep you cool. It's like having your own personal evaporative cooler. Turn the scarf around when the side against the skin gets warm.

I keep my extras plumped up and ready to go in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Look in local sports stores for neck coolers. (Yes, neck coolers are a bit dorky, but better dorky than in the ER for heat exhaustion.)

Hand fans

I can't figure out why we in the U.S. seem to have abandoned these. I carry a folding paper fan in my handbag all summer long and can be found keeping them shamelessly aflutter when it's hot outside. I buy them by the dozen on Amazon -- the sell for $6.99 for 12, and the site offers free shipping for Prime members. These are great gifts for friends with hot flashes.

Managing the hot days

Think Italian or Spanish when it comes to living in a hot clime. They take the afternoons off for siestas and are active in the cooler parts of the day and evening.

So, take a hint from them if you want to hike, run errands or garden. Do these things in the early morning. Take a nap in the afternoon. (If you're working, don't let the boss see you.) Then stay up late and enjoy the starry nights. Even cooking dinner ahead of time in the cool mornings makes sense. Then the main food folderol is already in the bag for the day.

Keeping the house cool

Electric fans and air conditioning help out many, but so do simple window shades. Also, opening the house when it's cool at night and closing it up when it starts to get hot in the late morning will manage the temps. You can go greener by not using the AC 24 hours a day and by setting it to 75 or above. As for electric fans, local hardware stores have some great sales.

Drink

It seems silly to remind people to drink water, but the older you get, the more your thirst mechanism goes awry. Keeping a big bottle of water in sight is a good reminder. In sight, in mind.

So stay cool, will ya?

I'll probably have to write this again next summer.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, Hot Granny, is available at Amazon. Visit Mel at www.melwalsh.com. Twitter: @MelWalshWriter.