July 17, 2013

Seniors should take precautions against heat


---- — PLATTSBURGH — It’s been a hot, humid and stormy summer thus far, and those scorching days may continue for some time.

Everyone should take precautions to protect themselves from too much sun and heat, but excessive temperatures can be especially dangerous for senior citizens.

They should take extra care when the thermometer rises, health officials say.


“Seniors should stay indoors when it’s hot outside,” said Sally Garvey of the Office for the Aging in Plattsburgh.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have air-conditioning at home.

“They can find some relief by going to the mall or the Senior Center, where there is air-conditioning.”

Many seniors will rely on fans to keep them cool on warmer days, but fans do not reduce moisture in the air the way air-conditioners can, she noted.


“It’s important to stay hydrated, to drink plenty of water,” Garvey said. “You may not feel thirsty, but your body loses a lot more water in hot weather.”

Alcohol and caffeine can cause the body to lose water more rapidly, so they should be avoided during hot spells.


Seniors should also be aware of the signs of danger and seek medical help if they suspect they may be suffering from heat exhaustion.

“Heat exhaustion is a serious problem, especially for older people and more frail people,” Garvey said.

“There are tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion, though they could mean something else as well. Don’t take a chance.”

Fatigue is a common sign of heat exhaustion, along with a growing weakness, nausea, sweating or a lack of sweating if the body is not well-hydrated.


Seniors should always be aware of daily weather reports and should prepare their activities accordingly, Garvey suggested.

“Wear light clothing,” Garvey said. “If you have something planned for the day, do it early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot and the sun’s not so bright. Always wear a hat.

“The main thing is use common sense. Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest times of day.”

Seniors who live alone should also rely on a buddy program where they have regular contact with friends or family members.

Loved ones should always be a little more diligent with checking in on their senior family members during hot spells.

Partners in Care NY also suggested that seniors know their medications. Sun exposure can affect reaction to certain drugs, so read labels carefully.


Several seniors were finding an oasis at the Senior Center on North Catherine Street in Plattsburgh on a recent warm day.

“I keep very quiet,” said Francis Bushey, a native of Chazy. “I try to keep cool with the fans (at home), but I spend a lot of my days here at the center.”

Earl Macey, who lives in Beekmantown, also finds relief at the center.

“I stay in the air-conditioning,” he said. “I go shopping in stores where it’s always cool, and I come here four days a week. I also drink a lot of green tea.”

Gary Ward from the Town of Plattsburgh makes sure his ceiling fan is running during the hot weather but also finds the Senior Center to be an escape from the heat.

“You’ve got all your friends here, a lot of good people here,” he said of those who were sharing the center’s cool hospitality.

“A lot of the time, I’ll have my fans on,” Dorothy LeClair of Morrisonville said as she prepared for a game of bingo with her Senior Center friends. “My daughter lives next door, and she checks in on me a lot.”

With July just halfway finished and a likely chance that August will be just as hot, taking precautions to ensure safety during hot spells can help make the summer fun and safe.

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