Image by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash.
We’ve had a ton of media attention on older people and covid
. Now we’re seeing articles on older people getting overheated.
Medium just published an article
focusing on “older” people who might have comorbidities, who might have moved from a cooler climate, who might not be aware of the dangers of excessive heat, who might be nervous about going out, and so on.
The CDC says
People aged 65 or older are more prone to heat-related health concerns. Older adults can’t adjust to sudden temperature changes as fast as younger people. This may happen because of certain medicines they take or chronic illnesses that affect their ability to regulate body temperature.
On the same page, the CDC offers advice on how to help an “older” person if you are a friend, family member, or caregiver:
“Know what medicines they are taking and find out if they affect body temperature.”
Not taking regular meds after 65? You do not exist, according to the CDC and many, many doctors.
Compare that to the comment by Christiane Northrup, MD, a board-certified gynecologist. In her book, Goddesses Never Age
, she points out that “most” of these medications are “unnecessary.”
Then there’s Olga Kotelko
. She was competing in track and field events well into her 90s. I suspect she knew more about staying cool than most medical staff.
It is important to separate the effects of aging from the effects of other conditions and to recognize that there’s considerable variance. The variance gets larger with increasing age.
An article in the refereed medical journal Sports Med
“Most laboratory studies have found that ageing is associated with decreased heat tolerance and alterations in thermoregulatory effector responses. What is not so clear is the role of ageing per se in this decreased heat tolerance (as opposed to some concomitant functional decline, e.g. decreasing VO2max, which accompanies ageing across a population).”
The authors further note:
With exercise in warm environments, most research has focused on the sweating response and it appears that whether or not sweating rate declines in the elderly is dependent upon the environment studied. [Emphasis added.]
In contrast, the magazine – not journal – Harvard Medicine Magazine published an article
saying, “Studies show that it can be hard for even healthy older adults to tell when it’s too hot or if they’re dehydrated. Cognitive decline exacerbates these problems.”
Where are the citations for those studies? What kind of cognitive decline is related to heat insensitivity and how prevalent is it?
Meanwhile a publication associated with an Urgent Care facility published an article on their website, targeting patients of all ages: “Can I Be Dehydrated and Not Know It?”Bit surprise: the answer is yes! And you don’t have to be old!
“While some people may experience dehydration in a very noticeable way, other people may not notice any symptoms at all…However, some people can be chronically dehydrated with symptoms that aren’t as tangibly noticeable.”
The biggest challenge for older people isn’t heat or Covid exposure. It’s stereotyping and ageism. I’ve had the experience of peacefully waiting for a ride share, keeping a watchful eye on my cell phone, when a total stranger asks, “Are you all right?” Or, “Are you lost?”
I’m wearing gym shorts and sneakers and carrying a backpack. My face might be showing irritation because the ride is late. I just got out of a barre class so my hair is all frizzy and all over the place.
I am tempted to swear at the well-meaning stranger. But it’s not their fault. It’s media that fail to distinguish “old and healthy” from “old and frail” or “any age with chronic illness.”
So I have another idea. In my book
, I call it playing the age card.
I’ll text my younger forty-something friend. “I’m old and it’s hot. Can you stop by with a few pints of coffee ice cream and maybe some chilled wine to follow up later? The air conditioning service just inspected the HVAC and it’s nice and cool here. But you know…we old people might be dying of the heat and just not know it. So bring a few buckets of ice, too.”
If I’m lucky, she just polished off a bottle of her wine and she’ll fall for it…this time. Maybe some fudge sauce to go on the ice cream?