13 Jul 2011

Beat this heat wave… and the next

Photo credit: Ben Amstutz

How are you holding up in this heat? Have you checked on your neighbors?  Heat is a serious risk for older adults, made worse because it can be so difficult to escape. As our climate changes more and more, we can expect heat events to be stronger than we remember from our youth. More than 1500 people die in the U.S each summer due to heat waves, and the majority of them are older.

NRDC has just  published a piece “Keep Your Cool When the Weather Gets Hot” that explains why seniors are more vulnerable and gives several good suggestions for what you can do to reduce your risk. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Close the curtains every morning on the sunny side of the house and use fans at night to draw in fresh,cool air. Choose cool places in your home to work or read. My office is in my basement, which is often the coolest place in our home, though today, I’m working at the local library, another reliably cool spot in my town.
  • Stay tuned to the weather forecast and check the air quality index every day: Air pollution can compound the effect of heat on one’s health. Make sure that the whole family is prepared.
  • Don’t go it alone! I recently heard an interview with a researcher who tracks the effects of catastrophic events (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc…). His research showed that the people who fare best are not the ones with the best access to emergency services, but those who have the strongest ties to the community. Set up a system for your friends and neighbors to check on each other, and provide help when needed.

For more ways to stay cool when it’s hot, click here. I also recommend your considering these low cost cooling ideas which I have found very effective. Most important, at every step do what is best for your health and well-being, and don’t test your limits.