Heat is the top killer among all types of weather hazards, including hurricanes and tornadoes. Older people can get into serious danger, as heat and dehydration stress bodies already challenged by age and chronic medical conditions or made more vulnerable by certain medications. Physicians and emergency planners say seniors’ best defence against heat is social connection, with family and neighbours checking on elders who are alone in sweltering weather.
Experts have found common strategies that all communities can use to avert senior heat deaths. With the additional threat of COVID-19, cities are also looking at funding for air conditioners and utility bills, closing streets to allow more outdoor space, parking air-conditioned buses as dispersed cooling centres, and even renting hotel rooms for vulnerable homeless people. This report examines how heat and a warming climate endanger the health of an aging U.S. population, a threat made even more worrisome during the COVID-19 pandemic.