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Retire in Denver or Salt Lake City to Get the Health Benefits of Sunlight

Shouldn’t your golden years be filled with as much sunshine and happiness as possible? We sure think so. The benefits of sunlight have a profound effect on overall health, especially for seniors. From essential vitamin D intake and sound sleeping to improved mood and memory, sunshine really is one of nature’s best medicines. That’s why we’re diving into the sunniest cities in the U.S. and why you should retire there.

The Sunniest Cities in America

It’s no surprise that cities with the most sunshine are on the western side of the country, particularly coastal and high-elevation cities. Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Sacramento and Los Angeles, California; and Miami, Florida, top the list of sunniest cities in the U.S., but also tout extreme temperatures and generally a dry climate. Though the sun shines 75%-85% of the year in these places, they are also among the hottest places to live in the country, limiting the amount of sunshine you can take in.

Photo of downtown Salt Lake City

Residents of Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah, however, enjoy nearly year-round sunshine and temperate, seasonal temperatures completely different from the heat of desert and coastal cities. The sun shines 69% of the year in Denver with 115 clear days on average. In Salt Lake City, there are an average of 125 clear days per year with 66% sunshine.

While winters in Denver and Salt Lake City can bring a lot of snow — which is why they’re top ranked for their lengthy ski seasons — spring, summer and fall are dry and full of sunny weather activities from farmers markets and art fairs to outdoor adventures.

Photo of downtown Denver

Benefits of Sunlight

Too many of us underestimate just how important sunshine is for our overall health. Young people and seniors in particular are proven to be more receptive to the health benefits of sunlight. Let’s take a closer look at the vital benefits of sunlight:

  • Vitamin D Benefits
    Vitamin D is unique among essential vitamins because it can be triggered by UVB radiation and synthesized through our skin. Our bodies use vitamin D to strengthen bones, maintain healthy blood cell production, bolster our immune system, and so much more. According to the Institute of Medicine, vitamin D for seniors is tremendously important. It’s recommended for people under age 70 to consume 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and 800 IU for people over 70. This generally equates to 15-30 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight, but be sure to ask your doctor for the proper amount for you. Because many seniors are not exposed to enough sunshine, vitamin D deficiency is common and can lead to a weakened immune system and increased risk of bone fractures.
  • Mood booster
    Sunlight is proven to increase the brain’s production of serotonin, the chemical contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. Many studies have been conducted and generally concluded that depression in seniors is correlated to a vitamin D deficiency. While being outdoors in general can improve your mood, the proper exposure to direct sunlight is the major factor at work.
  • Memory health and brain function
    Studies have also shown exposure to ample sunlight helps increase nerve growth in the hippocampus — the part of our brains that forms, organizes and stores memories. Thus, memory care and time spent in sunlight go hand in hand. Other studies have additionally proven that sunlight can help lessen Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms. Sunlight is cited as specifically contributing to lessening symptoms such as depression and nighttime wakefulness. It is scientifically evident now more than ever that vitamin D and exposure to sunlight have an impact on cognitive function.
  • Immune system (cancer risk)
    Contrary to popular belief, exposure to sunlight actually helps boost your immune system. Vitamin D can even help treat autoimmune diseases from psoriasis to cancer. Vitamin D increases white blood cell production, which protects your body against infection. Plus, vitamin D deficiency is proven to increase your risk of cancers, especially breast cancer and colon cancer.
  • Lower blood pressure
    One of the most important studies on sunlight exposure in recent years led to the confirmation that sunlight helps lower your blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The University of Edinburgh found that the compound nitric oxide, which lowers blood pressure, releases in our blood vessel when in contact with direct sunlight. Now we can confidently say that sunshine makes both our hearts and our minds happy.
  • Bones
    It’s a long-known fact that vitamin D increases the production of calcium and phosphorus, both chemicals used by our bodies to build strong, healthy bones. Relatively recently, however, we’ve discovered that vitamin D3 plays a role in how our bodies regulate calcium absorption to promote bone density. In studies about levels of vitamin D, elderly adults with lower levels were at a significantly higher risk of bone fractures of all types.

A grandpa hiking on a sunny day with his grandson

Soak Up the Sunshine at The Ridge

At The Ridge, we know all about sunny living because we’re located in some of the sunniest places in America: The Ridge Pinehurst in Denver, Colorado; The Ridge Foothill in Salt Lake City, Utah; and The Ridge Cottonwood in Holladay, Utah. At our modern, forward-thinking communities, we’re changing the traditional notions of senior living. Our goal is to be the ideal home base for seniors who want to spend their golden years in the sunshine and benefit from all the best this life has to offer.