Is air conditioning dangerous for elderly people?
In the summer, many of us can no longer live without it, whether in our cars, at home or in shops. However, the questions still remains as to whether this refreshing blast is beneficial or harmful to the health of elderly people. In this article we look at the evidence to help unravel the question.
A luxury for some, a lifeline for others
The first factor in the answer: elderly people now have a greater need to be cooled during hot weather. With age, the body’s capacity to regulate temperature changes. Illnesses and medication may also have an impact on thermoregulation.
It is therefore not surprising that elderly people are among the first victims of cold snaps or heat waves.
Air conditioning is therefore beneficial for the most sensitive. We may even assert that it can save lives.
Having said that, this statement only holds true if certain conditions are respected…
Old appliances are not a panacea
Concerns relating to air conditioning appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. At this time, numerous people working in air-conditioned buildings suffered from nasal congestion, breathing problems, headaches, fatigue and skin irritation.
It seems now that the reason for these afflictions related to the quality of the equipment and how well it was maintained. Cooling hot air creates humidity and condensation. If this humidity is not properly discharged, mould and other micro-organisms can start to develop, and then contaminate the ventilated air.
Modern equipment is much more effective and can even reduce the risk of indoor pollution… if you maintain it properly and clean the filters before they fill up with dust.
What elderly people need
Elderly people are concerned about both intense heat and severe chills. It is therefore highly inadvisable to misuse air conditioning capacity. Set it to a temperature which is no more than 5°C lower than the outside air, to be adapted of course in case of strong heat, a temperature of about 25 or 26°C for the cooled space seems reasonable. Above that, elderly people are exposed to severe chills. This is particularly the case if they suffer from poor cardiovascular circulation, which makes them more prone to chills.
Despite this focus on temperature, we should not forget the other absolute necessity for old elderly during hot weather: hydration.
Air conditioning cools, but it does not quench thirst. It even tends to dry the air. Think about nourishing them with fresh water or a hot drink and make sure the humidity level is appropriate. In a house, the humidity level of the ambient air must be between 40 and 60% to be comfortable.
Air conditioning has some fantastic benefits, but requires great care. Lack of maintenance or setting errors are the causes for all the problems attributed to it.