Elderly among most vulnerable during heat wave
By Scott Jenkins
SALISBURY ó At 9 a.m. Friday, it was already 90 degrees inside Eugene Linkís home near Granite Quarry.
Raised on a farm, the 86-year-old says the heat doesnít normally bother him much. Still, with no air conditioning and only a small window fan that wasnít doing much to stave off another sweltering day, he needed relief.
Link went to the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and took advantage of a program that gives fans to older residents who need them. He said later, after the outside temperature had climbed near 100, that fan helped him ěright much.î
ěIt keeps the air circulating,î he said. ěI have sure appreciated that fan.î
Susan Davis, who oversees the program for Rufty-Holmes, said the agency gave away a dozen box fans Friday morning, bringing the total distributed since June to about 300. She has around 100 more to hand out.
ěThereís so many people in this county who have no air conditioning at all or only have a window unit or a little bitty fan … and those are the people Iím trying to reach,î he said.
Many of those people are elderly like Link. And they are some of the most vulnerable when temperatures soar, as weather forecasters say they will again today. Todayís high is expected to be 99 degrees, with humidity making it feel well over 100.
When heat reaches extreme levels, people who work with older residents and emergency services officials say itís important for relatives, friends and neighbors to keep check on the elderly.
ěWhen someone gets older, their susceptibility changes; they need to be more cautious,î Frank Thomason, emergency services director for Rowan County, said Friday. ěItís much easier for older people to get dehydrated faster than younger individuals.î
People over 60 donít feel thirst as well, said Dr. Dave Templeton in Rowan Regional Medical Centerís emergency department.
Thomason said Rowan County EMS had gotten only a couple of calls the past few days for heat-related illnesses. And the agency hasnít had any calls from people asking where they can go to cool off. If the need arises, Emergency Services and the Elizabeth Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross will open a cooling shelter at the Red Cross headquarters on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Deborah Lineberger, director of emergency services for the Red Cross, said the agency is ready and volunteers are on standby in case a cooling shelter is needed. If opened, the shelter would provide air conditioning, water and a TV to people seeking relief from the heat. Cooling shelters close at sunset, Lineberger said.
Cooling shelters are for anyone who needs them, but Lineberger said the Red Cross also urges people with elderly relatives or neighbors to ěmake sure they arenít in a home where the heat is health-damaging, and if they are, we encourage them to help them find a place to go where they can be cool or to let us or emergency services know.î
By 6 p.m. Friday, the heat had risen and fallen in the 86-year-old Linkís home. His thermometer read 92.
Link had worked a little in the yard during the afternoon, and although he drank plenty of water and tried to stay in the shade, his soaked clothes clung to his body. He didnít plan much evening activity.
ěJust piddle around the house here and sit in front of the fan,î he said.
To be eligible for a free fan from Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, recipients must be: Rowan County residents; over the age of 60; have a specific need for a fan, such as having no air conditioning or in need of supplemental air movement for health reasons. People with central air conditioning are not eligible.
For more information, call Rufty-Holmes at 704-216-7700.