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AMAC: Seniors Most At Risk for Illness and Death During Heat Waves

heat wave summer seniors riskWASHINGTON, DC — Some may like it hot, but the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] warns that older Americans are at risk when summertime temperatures rise. AMAC president Dan Weber says that heat waves, the kind that have engulfed the nation recently, can cause illness and death among seniors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] on average there are more than 650 heat related deaths in the U.S. each year and many more suffer heat related illness during heat waves.  Between the years of 1999 and 2010 a total of 8,081 deaths were recorded, 36% of them or 2,901 of them, were over 65 years of age.

“The elderly living in cities are most vulnerable when temperatures soar.  Cities are known as ‘urban heat islands’ among weather forecasters because the streets, sidewalks and the concrete used in the construction of high rise buildings absorb the heat,” Weber explains.  “For example, 1995 was a banner year for heat waves and some 1,000 people died across the country.  Nearly three-quarters of those fatalities occurred in the big city of Chicago.”

Cramps, nausea, dizziness and other similar complaints during hot weather may be signs that the heat is getting the best of you and that you need to get help if these symptoms persist for more than half an hour.

“Better yet take precautions to avoid becoming a victim.  Cold drinks, water and juices, are recommended.  Don’t drink coffee or tea because the caffeine is dehydrating.  Alcoholic beverages are also dehydrating and, thus, should be avoided on hot days.  Stay in the shade if you are out of doors and wear a hat and light clothing,” Weber suggests.

He says that if you have elderly relatives or friends, check up on them from time to time.  It’s important to know that if humidity accompanies the high temperatures it can prevent sweat from evaporating, which reduces the body’s ability to cool itself.  In addition, the heat can cause confusion that may keep them from taking obvious steps in hot weather such as turning on the air conditioner.

“Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees. You could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature,” according to FEMA.

Weber points out that “most communities across the country make provisions for seniors in hot weather by establishing neighborhood “cooling centers” in summer, places where they can get relief if they don’t have air conditioning.  These centers also provide appropriate drinks to keep them hydrated.


The Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] [], with 2 million members, is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members.  We act and speak on their behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today.  Live long and make a difference by joining us today at

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Donna Adams
3 years ago

I had sun stroke in my childhood and nearly died and am not a fan of summer. ? ! I had forgotten that feeling cool by fans, for example, doesn’t mean that your body temperature can still be hotter. We are blessed by air conditioning here in America, although not everyone has it.

3 years ago

I’ll never forget the day that heat stroke nearly killed me. Now, I always keep a bottle of water in the truck…just in case. I had never come close to heat exhaustion, and never thought it would happen to me. After all, I was outside most of the day. But it suddenly did, while I was driving home from work on a hot spring day, about 8 or 9 years ago. Awful cramps, and I sweat out every last drop of water. I knew that if I had passed out, it could have been the end of me, so I fought it. I moved around to keep the blood circulating, because there was no pulse. My skin was yellow! (Warning lights on, idling in rush hour traffic with A/C on, angry beeping horns rushing past on both sides…)

Thinking there might be an old bottle somewhere, I reached in the back, and found a bottle with 2 tablespoons of water in it…old water, but who cares? I drank it, and started feeling human again in 10 or 15 minutes. When I tried to drive home, this big round thing in front of me was in the way. I could think petty clearly about why I needed to get out of there, what was happening, and the direction home…but I couldn’t figure out what that thing was. So, more time was needed……. Then I realized that it was the steering wheel! It looked huge! Weird, what parts of the brain still functioned and which ones didn’t. I dislike hot weather even more than I did then, and a strange side effect was extreme sensitivity (pain!) to sharp, high-pitched noises.

Got water??

Donna Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Kim

Sure am glad you’re still here! The brain is amazing for sure but needs to be fed and hydrated to work properly. Love your sense of humor!
God bless and much love, Donna

3 years ago
Reply to  Donna Adams

Thanks, Donna. So am I, and I’m glad you, too, recovered.

Another point I should add is the susceptibility to heat exhaustion after the first incident. Selling plants outside in summer heat became more risky, with several bouts of dizziness and near-fainting. Although my doctor said I “just need more water”, I found out that that was not enough. For me–and everyone is different–I also needed calories and electrolytes. So, tomato juice (low sodium) worked best, followed by other fruit juices. Not just water! And I also treated myself to a bag of potato chips now and then, since I didn’t normally use a lot of salt. My brother (2 years older) also recently started showing early symptoms of heat exhaustion while gardening.

Just when you least expect it, it’s there. Stay safe, everyone.

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