If you are a senior or disabled utilizing the services of a health aide, one of the worst scenarios is to be living at home is without air conditioning. Perhaps you live in a retirement community, assisted living or memory care facility; air conditioners still need maintenance. (I know as I have personally worked for a facility and there was a constant need to maintain air conditioners and repair).
Are summer temps a risk to seniors? We’re not talking about extremes here. We’re talking about slight increases in temperature that can cause elderly heat stress.
A Harvard School of Public Health study found that even a 1 degree Celsius increase, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, in temperature during the summer can increase death rates for elderly people who have a chronic health condition.
The study included health data from 1985-2006 for 3.7 million senior citizens, aged 65+, who possessed some form of chronic illness. The seniors lived in 135 different cities across the U.S.
Heat stress increases the death risk for seniors suffering from these conditions:
- Chronic Lung Disease:Death risk increased by 3.7%
- Diabetes:Death risk increased by 4%
- Heart Attack Sufferers:Death risk increased by 3.8%
- Heart Failure Sufferers:Death risk increased by 2.8%
In recent years, temperatures have been rising worldwide due to anthropogenic climate change , with a concomitant rise in the number of deaths caused by high ambient temperatures [2, 3]. In Japan, the number of heat-related deaths has been increasing, with a higher risk of heatstroke found among elderly individuals [4, 5]. Heatstroke tends to have more serious consequences in elderly individuals because of their decreased sensitivity to heat, sweating, ability of the body to thermoregulate, and increased prevalence of underlying diseases such as hypertension and dementia.