In Georgia, where I grew up and lived until I was almost age 20, it was very hot. Most homes were not air conditioned, including ours.
None of the schools had cooling systems. The only kind of fans we had at home or in school were ceiling fans or the kind we picked up at the funeral home.
When I tell my grandchildren these stories their eyes roll back in their heads twice followed by shouts of, “Not that story again, Grammy.”
When I followed my parents to the Dallas area in 1968, Texas was hot, too. It was, however, a different type of hot. Fans didn’t help.
Texas heat is dry. Georgia heat is wet. Yes, I perspired in Georgia. So did everyone else.
It’s going to get much hotter as the days come and go. It’s time to talk about how us mature folks can stay safe in hot weather — whether you’re in Texas, traveling around the world, or going across the country to see family.
Hot weather can be dangerous. An article by A Place for Mom (“7 Tips for Avoiding Elderly Heat Stroke and Exhaustion,”) cites a recent University of Chicago Medical Center study that found 40% of heat related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.
This article spoke to me.
Last June, I attended a birthday gathering for my great nephew. It was held outside at a Denton park. All of a sudden, several people looked at me and brought me water. They said I had turned bright red and looked faint. Heck, I felt faint. Late afternoons in Denton do get hot.
But it was so much fun to be with the children. I didn’t want to leave, but at my husband’s insistence, we left early. I felt a little sick for the rest of the evening.
The article says there are several reasons older people are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. As we age, our ability to notice a change in our body temperature decreases. In addition, many seniors have underlying health conditions that make it harder for them to adapt to the heat. And a lot of seniors take medications that can cause dehydration. The article goes on to say there are a few simple precautions that can keep us safe.
Since dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems, drink water or juice even if you are not thirsty.
Alcohol or caffeinated drinks can contribute to dehydration. If you drink cocktails, beer, wine or spirits, pair your drinks with water. The same is suggested when drinking coffee and caffeinated drinks.
Wear appropriate clothes outside — choose light-colored clothes that breathe instead of bind. If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time, wear light clothes and don’t wrap up too much.
Stay indoors during the midday hours. If you have errands, go in the morning.
Watch the heat index during the weather report and in the newspaper. The local news will address heat index factors to help you understand how it really feels outside.
We have a friend who loves to garden. As she has aged, she has not been able to be outside all day. It’s been a difficult adjustment for her, but a necessary one.
Air-conditioned environments are great. When I was a child, my mother took us to many movies. I now realize why. Movies not only provided great entertainment, but gave us a cool place to spend time. You can do that too, and save on energy bills but nudging your thermostat to a higher temperature while you’re out.
Finally, know the signs of heat related illness. Listen to your body. If you are dizzy, nauseated, have a headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain or feel faint, seek shelter immediately. And drink lots of water.
Let’s face it. When we were children, life was different. Many of us didn’t live with the luxuries we have today, such as air conditioning in our homes and cars. I suppose we have become spoiled. That’s okay. Let’s enjoy every blessing we have today.
However, let’s not forget our neighbors both near and far, who may not have air conditioned homes. Check on them. If you are fortunate, buy them a fan and either deliver it to them or ask someone to help you with that admirable project.
Please don’t forget to tell the young people around you what life was like for you as a child, even if their eyes roll back in their heads or they stick their fingers in their ears. It seems as my grandchildren get older they tell me stories I’ve told them earlier. So, I know even if children seem bored with our tales those stories stick in their minds and hearts. Someday our grandchildren will recall our memories with a full heart.