3 need-to-know facts about the elderly and heat intolerance

Did you know aged care facilities without air conditioning don’t have to install necessary heating and cooling solutions?

This can be dangerous for elderly citizens who don’t know how to cope in a heatwave. In Australia, our average temperature in summer is 30 degrees – however, in the middle of a heatwave, some of our towns can hit 40 degrees and higher.

In fact, the record in January 2019 was 49.6 degrees celsius in Moomba in South Australia

Without a cooling solution to keep their body temperature stable, we’re putting our elderly citizens in danger. In this blog, we’re going to share three facts about elderly heat intolerance, so you know why air conditioning is essential for aged care.

#1. People over 65 don’t regulate heat as efficiently

As we age, our bodies start to change and slow down. One of the biggest changes – regulating internal and external heat.

Seniors over the age of 65 don’t tend to sweat as much as younger adults which, unfortunately, is one of our most important heat regulation mechanisms

For example, when it’s hot outside or we’re exercising, we automatically increase blood flow to the skin and our skin vessels dilate, which is why our skin looks redder when it’s hot outside. When it’s a hot day, we pump up to 20 times more blood to the skin than on a cold day, helping us regulate our body temperature – a healthy 36 degrees on average.

However, older people run into a bit of trouble when it comes to this natural temperature regulation. For senior adults, the vessels in the skin don’t dilate as well – despite this, the heart continues to force blood around the body, causing cardiovascular strain

In the middle of a heatwave, you can see why this might be a problem – especially without the help of air conditioning to help keep our aging population cool. 

#2. Elder mortality rates skyrocket in the middle of a heatwave

Australia has a long history of deadly heat waves. 

In 2018, the ABC completed a survey of more than 250 people and 60 businesses throughout Australia around responses to heatwaves. According to data, 45% of at-risk Australians (older people, sick people, and infants) didn’t know how to cope with the hot weather.

Around 20% of people in Western Sydney alone avoided using their air conditioning due to rising costs and power bills. 

This is a dangerous trend – and it can be deadly.

Below, the table shows the number of deaths per 100,000 people from heat waves dating back to 1844. According to the data, 89% of deaths occurred in New South Wales.

deaths from heat waves graph

Image: ABC

As we mentioned earlier, older people don’t cope with hot weather very well – especially in the middle of a heatwave. 

Most of the time, older people don’t die from heatstroke or dehydration in a heatwave – they pass away from cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and heart failure because their hearts work overtime to cope with the heat.

#3. Ideal temperatures and conditions for aged care facilities

Air conditioning is essential for aged care facilities around Australia. The average temperature in summer is 30 degrees celsius – whereas Victoria can reach as high as 48.8 degrees on average!

In 2018, the University of Wollongong (UOW) surveyed five aged care facilities throughout the Illawarra. They found the average temperature of aged care facilities in the area ranged between 17.5 degrees celsius and 31.6 degrees celsius

However, the World Health Organisation recommends older people avoid temperatures lower than 20 degrees celsius and the International Organisation for Standardisation recommends not exceeding 26 degrees celsius. 

The regulation of air temperature can help avoid unnecessary discomfort, illness, and cardiovascular stress, ensuring we minimise hospitalisations and deaths in warmer weather.

According to researchers from UOW, the temperature in nursing homes around Australia should sit comfortably between 20 degrees celsius and 26.2 degrees celsius to maintain comfort and, of course, healthy lifestyles. 

Fortunately, air conditioning can help regulate safe, healthy temperatures in aged care facilities.

Air conditioning is essential to keep our senior citizens cool and comfortable in the summer

In Australia, we have an aging population. 

In 2017, more than 1 in 7 Australians were aged over 65 years and 232,000 people were in permanent aged care

Around 57,500 were in respite residential aged care – numbers which are expected to keep rising in coming years.

Hot weather and heatwaves can be dangerous for the older members of our society. Unlike younger adults, seniors struggle to regulate their internal body temperature and are more at risk of heart attacks and heart failure during heatwave conditions.

Here at Air Conditioning Industries, we’re here to help.

Our professional team offers commercial air conditioning solutions for a range of businesses and medical centres around Newcastle & the Central Coast – meaning we’ve got aged care solutions to keep older people cool. 

Get in touch with the team from Air Conditioning Industries. We can help achieve a safe, comfortable temperature for the elderly.

Image: Pexels