AOoA, cooling centers help seniors beat the heatWritten by Mary Petrides | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot weather can be a silent disaster, especially for seniors, said Emilie Owens, emergency coordinator for Area Office on Aging (AOoA). When it’s hot and humid for a sustained period of time, death rates rise significantly for seniors, Owens said.
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water and sports drinks. Seniors should avoid alcohol, caffeine and drinks with a lot of sugar.
Outdoor activities should be limited to early morning or late evening when it’s cooler.
Appropriate clothing is also important. Lightweight and light-colored clothing, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sunscreen can help keep the heat away.
Seniors should not be left in a car, where temperatures can rise dangerously high, even with open windows, Owens said.
“Within a matter of minutes, that can be deadly,” she said. “An open window is not enough to protect someone from the dangers of the heat.”
The two most serious problems caused by heat are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
A person with heat exhaustion feels dizzy, has a headache, might vomit or sweat profusely and has clammy, pale or flushed skin and a normal body temperature. Those affected should lie down and take a cool bath or shower and drink a lot of water.
More dangerous than heat exhaustion is heatstroke. A person with heatstroke might have difficulty breathing or a change in consciousness — they might be confused or pass out. A person with heatstroke will have either a rapid or a weak pulse and body temperature can reach 105 degrees.
If this happens, “you need to call 911 or emergency assistance right away,” Owens said.
Seniors should stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Owens said fans can help, but air conditioning is far better, and seniors should try to spend at least a few hours a day in an air-conditioned location. If their homes are not air conditioned, they can go to a public air-conditioned location, like a mall or library.
AOoA has identified eight emergency cooling centers in the Toledo-Lucas County area, where seniors can play cards, have lunch, discuss books, play bridge, quilt or take computer classes, Owens said. Cooling centers are owned individually, but most receive some funding from AOoA.
Owens said AOoA started calling on the senior centers after a 1995 heat wave in Chicago. About 750 people died in two or three days, she said, and two-thirds of them were seniors.
“We decided that we have to be advocates to our elderly,” Owens said.
For information, call (419)382-0624 or visit www.areaofficeonaging.com.