It’s not just the elderly who are at risk when the weather heats up. Here’s what you need to do to stay safe.
Credit: Ingram Publishing I iThinkStock
Heat waves tend to be underestimated as natural disasters because they lack the destructive power of hurricanes or earthquakes. We shouldn’t, however, overlook their lethal capabilities. During a week-long heat wave in Chicago in July 1995, temperatures in that city reached as high as 106 with a heat index of 120. At least 739 people died — 651 of them 85 or older. Most were living alone, without power or air conditioning.
Four years later, when another heat wave hit, the city took aggressive action, sending police to check on isolated seniors and offering free bus service to cooling centers. Still, 110 people died. And during a catastrophic three-week heat wave in Europe in August 2003, when temperatures produced the hottest season in five centuries, an estimated 70,000 people died, a fifth of them in Paris alone. Again, elders living alone were most vulnerable.