Home Health & Wellness Sun Care and Sun Protection: Why It Matters for Seniors

Sun Care and Sun Protection: Why It Matters for Seniors

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Many people think of sunburn as a temporary inconvenience. But the reality is far more serious. According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburnt just once every two years can actually triple the risk of developing skin cancer. This startling statistic highlights why skin cancers are predominantly discovered among seniors, as accumulated sun damage over a lifetime can take a significant toll. 

In fact, skin cancer cases have reached record highs in the UK, with case rates among adults aged 55 and over rising by 195% since the 1990s. Given this alarming trend, it is more crucial than ever for seniors to understand the importance of sun care and protection to safeguard their well-being. Let’s take a closer look below. 

The dangers of UV exposure for seniors

Over a lifetime, accumulated sun damage can lead to severe health issues. A 2021 study published in The Lancet Regional Health explains that 86% of cutaneous malignant melanoma cases in England are attributable to UV radiation exposure. The incidence of this specific skin cancer has skyrocketed, with an average annual increase of 842% in males and 381% in females since 1981. This dramatic rise is largely due to the trend of intermittent high-intensity UV exposure from activities like sunbathing, holidaying in sunny locales, and indoor tanning that many seniors used to partake in during the 1980s.

Even worse, accumulated sun damage does not only affect the skin. Eye conditions, such as cataracts, are also linked to prolonged UV exposure. In fact, a 2023 review in Cureus explains that excessive sunlight exposure increases oxidative stress, thereby aggravating the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is known as the third leading cause of visual impairment among the elderly worldwide and can profoundly impact their quality of life. 

Make no mistake, however, that sun damage accrued in younger years is the sole determinant of an elderly person’s health, rendering further sun protection unnecessary. This is a common misconception. As people age, intrinsic ageing makes the skin thinner and less resilient, allowing more UV rays to penetrate the skin and cause damage to skin cell DNA. This heightened vulnerability can tip the balance towards developing debilitating conditions, from skin cancer to severe eye conditions, in one’s later years. Therefore, sun protection is not just a precaution but a necessity for the elderly and a determining factor for whether one can age gracefully and maintain independence in one’s golden years.

Sun protection tips for the elderly

Given the increased risk, it is essential for seniors to adopt effective sun protection measures. One of the most fundamental methods is the use of sunscreen. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of cost-efficient sunscreen options in the market, allowing seniors with limited monthly budgets to prioritise the item in their sun protection tool kit. Elderly people with limited joint mobility can opt for Asda’s Protect Refreshing Clear Sun Spray for its convenient application, whereas those who struggle with dry skin can find the brand’s Sun Lotion version more ideal.

While sunscreen is used for exposed skin, sunglasses are crucial for protecting the eyes. Thanks to advanced technology from leading brands, seniors with existing vision issues can benefit from designer sunglasses to both enhance visibility and provide UV protection. When you purchase from a reputable retailer, a quality pair of sunglasses can provide lifetime sun care with UV 400 lenses, polarisation, and other customisable features. With models like Ray-Ban’s RB3548N Hexagonal Flat Lenses or Burberry’s BE4402U, found only online, you can age safely and stylishly at the same time.

Beyond proactive sun care, it’s imperative for seniors to prioritise proper treatment and maintenance as needed. If sunburnt, then prompt treatment is vital to prevent long-lasting damage, given how seniors’ skin heals more slowly. You can apply after-sun cream like Clarins SOS Sunburn Soother Mask to provide immediate relief and relax the skin before seeing the doctor. Otherwise, regular skin examinations by a medical professional can help detect any early signs of skin damage or cancer, ensuring timely intervention.  

By adopting these sun protection strategies, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of UV-related health issues. Stay safe under the sun and enjoy your golden years with better health and greater peace of mind.

Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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