Sure, you already know that drinking enough water is important. But did you know that your age actually impacts your hydration needs? If you don’t know the signs, symptoms & risks of dehydration in seniors, you could have an increased risk of health complications.
Why dehydration affects seniors more than others
The biggest reason why seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger adults is because our bodies change as we age & one of those changes is a decreased ability to retain water. Also, as we age, our bodies lose water content, which means we have less water available to maintain proper hydration. Older adults also find that their sense of thirst can decrease with age which often leads you to not drinking enough fluids. Lastly, some health conditions common in older adults, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can affect the body’s ability to regulate fluids properly.
Symptoms of dehydration in seniors
It’s about more than just “being thirsty.” Often we don’t even realize we’re dehydrated so it’s important to recognize the symptoms:
- Dark yellow urine
- Dry mouth & throat
- Fatigue & weakness
- Confusion, disorientation & irritability
- Dizziness & lightheadedness
- Sunken eyes & dry skin
- Muscle cramping
- Constipation & urinating less than usual
Risks of dehydration in seniors
Being dehydrated at any age can lead to severe consequences… but for seniors it can be even more serious. Dehydration can lead to…
- Low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness & increased risk of falling
- Loss of balance
- Kidney problems including kidney stones & even kidney failure
- Urinary tract infections
- Heat exhaustion & heat stroke
- Confusion or disorientation
- Difficulty moving or walking
- And even death in extreme cases
Dehydration can also make existing health conditions worse—such as hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease.
Best practices for seniors to avoid dehydration
The good news is that avoiding dehydration is one of the easiest things you can do. Here are some tips to keep hydrated & healthy:
- Drink water throughout the day even if you don’t feel thirsty!
- Limit coffee, tea & alcohol as they are typically diuretics (which get rid of water in your body)
- Enjoy other beverages like fruit juices with low sugar or flavored water
- Eat food with high water content (watermelons, cucumbers, etc)
- Make sure you always have access to water whether at home or out & about
- If it’s hot, humid or you’re exercising, remember to increase the amount you drink
- Set alarms in your phone so you get reminders to drink water throughout the day
- Keep water near the places you spend most of your time (like your couch or chair)
- Create a water drinking routine so that it becomes a habit
How much water older adults should drink
Older adults should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day, although this can vary depending on your health status and activity level. If it’s hot or you’re exercising—you should be drinking more.
The National Council on Aging recommends that you take ⅓ of your body weight & drink that number of ounces in fluids each day. If you weigh 120 pounds then you should drink approximately 40 ounces of water a day (120/3 = 40).
However, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare provider to determine how much water is appropriate for you given your medical history.
Why you should prioritize hydration as you age
Not staying properly hydrated is just 1 of the most common mistakes older adults make when starting a new exercise routine. But it’s not limited to just exercise. Older adults are often chronically dehydrated just going about their regular day.
So drink up! It’s the easiest way to get these benefits of staying hydrated:
- Healthier skin
- Improved cognitive function
- Reduced risk of falls and accidents
- Better digestion and reduced risk of constipation
- Properly regulated body temperature
- Reduced risk of low blood pressure
- Reduced liklihood of headaches
- Feel healthier overall!
Dehydration in seniors is easy to avoid.
If you’re one of the 40% of older adults who is chronically dehydrated, you can make a significant improvement to your overall health & wellness just by adding in a few more cups of water to your day.
And remember, if you’re taking an exercise class like “Gentle Seated Weight Loss” that you need to drink more water!