I recently received yet another notification that the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for my area. I don’t usually give these emails much thought, since heat is a natural part of summer, but this line made me pause:
“People without air conditioning, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions are most at risk.”
I decided to get some more information online, and I discovered these scary stats from the New York City Office of Emergency Management:
In August 2003, a blistering heat wave in France left an estimated 15,000 dead, many of whom were seniors.
In July 1995, a two-week-long heat wave in Chicago, where the heat index peaked at 119°F, claimed 465 lives, more than half of whom were 75 or older.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social isolation and the inability to care for yourself put you at greater risk for heat-related illness.
The good news is that there are steps that seniors can take to beat the heat this summer:
- Keep your home cool by installing window shades or awnings to block the sun.
- If you have an air conditioner, make sure it works properly. Set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
- If you don’t have air conditioning and open windows aren’t providing enough fresh air, make your way to an air-conditioned location such as a friend’s house, library, mall, movie theater, or senior center.
- Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or sugary beverages. Drink plenty of water instead, although people with heart, kidney, or liver disease should check with their doctor before increasing fluid intake.
- Take a cool shower or bath, but try to avoid extreme temperature changes, which can make you nauseated or dizzy.
Whatever you do, don’t go it alone – keep in touch with family and friends to ask for help if the heat becomes too much to take. You may even consider moving into a senior living community so you can feel confident that you’ll be safe no matter what the weather.