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Staying hydrated is important to us all, but even more so as we age. As we get older, body water content decreases which can lead to increased risk of dehydration and serious consequences. In fact, dehydration in older adults is one of the ten most common causes of hospitalization in the United States. Dehydration in older adults can lead to such issues as impaired cognition, confusion, falling and constipation.

Why are older adults more susceptible to dehydration?

The amount of water in the body decreases as we age. Because of this, the body becomes more susceptible to dehydration from the loss of only a small amount of water. Additionally, our sense of thirst tends to decline as we age which can lead to decreased fluid intake.  The National Institute on Aging shares other factors that can contribute to decreased fluid intake in older adults. These can include

  • The loss of sense of thirstbottled water
  • Medication side effects
  • Difficulty in getting to or in using the toilet
  • Fear of being unable to control one’s bladder

What are some of the signs that you aren’t drinking enough water?

  • The first sign of dehydration is thirst, which occurs after your body has lost 1% to 2% of body water. This is alarming for older adults due to the diminished sense of thirst. Often when they feel thirsty, they are already well on their way to dehydration.
  • Another indicator of inadequate hydration is the color of a person’s urine. It should be clear or pale yellow. Darker urine may indicate the need for more fluids.
  • Dry mouth, flushed skin, headache and fatigue, dizziness, poor blood circulation, muscle spasms, increased body temperature and rapid breathing are also signs of dehydration.

What can you do to stay hydrated?

A minimum of six 8-ounce glasses of water per day is the recommendation for adults.  There are a few tips to help you meet this goal.

  • Get in the habit of drinking water. You should drink water first thing in the morning, at every meal and between meals. If you use a cell phone, there are free apps that remind you to drink your water.
  • Carry a water bottle with you when you are on the go. That way there is no excuse to not drink.
  • Choose hydrating snacks such as watermelon, cucumbers, citrus fruits, applesauce or yogurt.

Water is a key nutrient and serves many essential functions. It serves to help the body function, playing a role in such things as joint lubrication, temperature regulation, digestion and elimination of waste. Watching out for older family members and friends is essential especially during warm weather.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

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