These days my friends and I are more apt to get together at the emergency room than we are for lunch.

Small talk and catching up have been replaced by playing “Can you top this?” about our chronic aches and pains.  Our joints can now predict changes in the weather better than local TV weather experts.

Most commonly, I’m hearing about an unwanted bedfellow: “Rona, I’m feeling great when I go to bed, but in the morning I wake up with pain!”

I’m also hearing more and more horror stories about elderly seniors being in such pain that a trip to the ER seems like the only solution.

But after the ordeal of being there for what seems a confusing eternity, the senior is told the doctor can’t find anything wrong. 

And you get to the point where the doctors want you to play medication roulette until the pain goes away — or you do.

The real pain, of course, comes a week later when we receive a bill for services and medicines not covered by insurance!

Well, I’m afraid we’re just going to have to face it: whether we are mobile or sedentary — at some point we are going to be in pain. It’s management that will alleviate the pain in our bodies and in our wallets.

The two leading reasons why we seniors land in the ER are of course unpreventable injuries and accidents.

But there are preventable reasons why seniors become permanent features at our friendly neighborhood ER: heat stroke and exhaustion.

We can manage these life-threatening situations ourselves with no help from others. And it starts and ends with getting enough fluids into our bodies, especially during these hotter months of summer.

As we age, other factors can contribute to an increased risk of dehydration. Our ability to notice changes in our body temperature decreases.

Some health conditions make us less adaptable to heat extremes. Our body’s ability to retain water declines.

We start to lose the sensation for thirst. Our memory lapses can include forgetting to drink water.

As we age our bodies may tolerate less food, but our bodies will not tolerate less liquid.

Dehydration can cause confusion; fatigue; hot or cold sensations; muscle cramping; headache; dry mouth, eyes and skin; constipation; dangerous changes to blood pressure; and unbalanced blood chemistry (i.e., blood sugar, electrolytes).

According to, those of us 65 or older should drink nine eight-ounce glasses of fluid each day. (Note to self: Buy shares of Depends.)

If you don’t think you can possibly drink that much, remember all liquid counts (milk, soup, coffee and tea, popsicles) and some fruits and vegetables, too.

The way I accomplish this is to drink one glass with each meal and one in between. Make it easy by keeping fluid in arm’s reach throughout the day and stash one in the car or your bag.

Or ask your assistant to get you a cup of water. My assistant is like Nurse Ratched with making sure I have a cup of water at my desk the minute I start coughing.

So, stay hydrated and we’ll have fewer reasons to meet in the ER. I’ll drink to that!

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at The opinions expressed are her own.