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Central One

For some seniors, 'dog days' can be deadly

Cooling season just as important as heating season

May 08, 2011
CHARLTON — Most people in the area know the local group Residential Energy Assistance for Seniors (REAS) as a source of oil to stave off winter chill.

That fact led a recent Sound Off writer to query why they also devote resources to providing assistance for summer.

"Heat stroke is as huge in the summer as hypothermia is in the winter," said REAS board member and Senior Center Director Elaine Kingston, although she acknowledged, "There's definitely more heating need than cooling need."

Specifically, the organization sees summer cooling as the other side of its eponymous goal — residential energy assistance for seniors — and helps seniors who meet income guidelines to buy air conditioners. Last year, it aided 17 people this way, a number that's been climbing. When it started doing so in 2009, REAS received just three applicants.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, seniors are more susceptible to heat-related issues than younger folks for a variety of reasons. The big three are simple aging of the body's temperature-adjustment mechanisms, their higher likelihood of having medical conditions that affect breathing or heat adjustment, and the related probability of being on medications "that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration." Common players in the latter group are diuretics, anti-cholesterol drugs, heart disease drugs and various psychiatric medications.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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