By Sue Botos
It’s hot in Cleveland, and just about everywhere else.
With thermometers soaring into the 90s last week, and nearly there this week, most people are feeling the heat. But according to those caring for senior citizens, the temperatures can be more than uncomfortable. They can be life-threatening.
“Heat affects seniors more. They heat up more quickly and may not notice it,” explained Kitty Kadas, marketing director for the Rockport Retirement Community in Rocky River. She added that chronic health problems common in older people add to the risk, and enhance the danger of falls.
Staff at Rockport and the Harbor Court Independent and Assisted Living facilities agree that air-conditioning is the best protection against heat related illness; however, seniors sometimes need convincing.
“A lot of seniors don’t like air-conditioning because they’re from a generation that didn’t have it,” stated Kadas. “We have our housekeepers check the residents’ room to make sure they haven’t turned it off,” she added.
Both centers offered “cooling stations” last week, where seniors could join residents in an indoor picnic-style lunch as well as participate in any scheduled activities such as card games or Wii bowling.
“The main thing is no cooking,” said Kadas. Hot foods and heavy meals add heat to the body.
While no specific heat-related activities are planned for the Rocky River Senior Center, director Carole Calladine said she has noticed lunchtime attendance increases with the temperature. Contaced during the warmest day of last week, Calladine said that one regular group stays cool by spending the afternoons playing Mah Jong. She added that the movie was particularly popular that day.
“I don’t know if it was the movie or the air conditioning,” she stated.
Those working with seniors also offered other heat beating tips which should be observed by anyone, no matter their age. These include drinking plenty of fluids and replacing salts and minerals in the body with such beverages as sports drinks. Caffeinated drinks should be avoided, as they tend to cause dehydration. Salt tablets should not be taken unless under medical supervision.
Sun exposure should also be limited during mid-day hours, especially in places of potential extreme exposure such as beaches. Labels on medications should also be checked, as some side effects can be enhanced by heat or strong sunlight.
Kadas said that while her facility has offered some heat-relief activities in the past, this summer much more is being made available. She added that it is also important for residents to check on their senior neighbors during the extreame heat.
“Just knock on their door and make sure they’re alright,” she stated.
Even though it’s hot, not many people are longing for snow and ice.
“Everyone I’ve talked to said that this is better than winter,” Calladine stated.