I’m not saying that you don’t suffer during intense heat waves. Most everybody does.
But the elderly - loosely classified as those 65 and older - struggle when it’s hot more than others.
Heat is dangerous. It’s not hype! It’s the number one cause of heat-related deaths in the United States, and the risks increase as you age. Last summer, Europe weathered an unprecedented heat wave. More than 61,000 people died from heat stress, and 90% of those were older than 65.
Why is it that older people are more at risk in the heat than other people?
Here are five reasons:
ONE: The older we get, the less we sweat.
As we age, we lose certain physiological functions. One of those is the ability to sweat.
Older people do not sweat as much as they did when they were younger because the number of sweat glands decreases. Not only do they have fewer sweat glands, but the remaining ones don’t work as effectively as they did in decades past.
When the ability to sweat diminishes, the body can’t stay cool.
Compounding that problem is the fact that most older people drink less fluid than they consumed in their younger years. Thirst and appetite decrease over time.
TWO: The older we get, the more likely we are to have a chronic illness
Here are some scary facts.
The National Institute of Health says that 85% of adults aged 65 and older have one chronic health condition, and 60% of those have more than two chronic illnesses.
The statistics given by the National Council on Aging are even higher than that.
According to that group, 95% of the “elderly” have one chronic condition, and 80% have two or more!
Chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes make it more difficult to stay cool. A weakened heart can’t pump blood to the skin as fast as it used to, and therefore can’t cool it as much.
Another chronic condition that many older adults suffer from is diabetes. Diabetes can result in nerve damage that keeps the body from recognizing that it needs to sweat to stay cool.
THREE: The older we are, the more likely we are to take medicine
Medicine is a good and helpful thing. But some medications can alter how the body reacts to temperature. Some meds affect hydration. Others change blood flow.
All those factors affect a body’s ability to stay cool.
Since the elderly are more likely to have chronic conditions that require medications, they get a double whammy when the temperature outside is intense or prolonged.
FOUR: The older we are, the less mobility we have
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying that everyone over sixty-five is debilitated! In today’s world, many people in their eighties and even nineties are physically fit and healthy. But sadly, many are not.
People with chronic conditions may no longer be mobile. They may need walkers or wheelchairs. They may not be able to drive.
Often, the older, ill population is homebound and isolated, making it tough for them to ask for help or know what to do.
All of those factors make it harder for older people to get to a cooling center or shelter if their air conditioner stops working, or if they don’t have air conditioning at all.
(Ten percent of the population in the United States lives without air conditioning!)
FIVE: The older we get, the greater the chance that our cognitive ability declines
Ouch. Hard truths, I know.
No one likes to think this will happen to them, but sometimes the elderly lose the ability to think clearly.
The onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s curtails the ability to sense temperature changes. If they do sense body temperature, they may not know what to do about it.
This group is one of the most at-risk groups during extreme heat.
As the world warms, more and more areas are developing plans for dealing with extreme heat.
Cities are opening more splash pads, pools, and turning on fountains.
They are creating more cooling centers.
Groups are giving away free fans.
Neighbors are checking on neighbors.
Relatives are helping relatives.
ServiceOne is here to help you stay cool – no matter how hot it is. We answer emergency calls 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
We have a full staff of trained technicians, installers, and plumbers who can deal with any kind of problem you have with air conditioning, plumbing, or drain cleaning.
Young or old, healthy or sick, you can count on us to keep you cool no matter how hot it is!