5 Tips for Seniors to Keep Cool During Extreme Heat

With the Portland area set to break its all-time heat record this weekend, you'd be forgiven for thinking we live in Palm Springs, California. With temperature projections inching higher with every refresh of Weather.com, Portlanders could experience temperatures over 113 degrees. The all-time record of 107 degrees has been reached on only three occasions in history, with the last being in 1981.

According to KGW.com, Portland clocks in as the third least air-conditioned city in the country, with less than 70% of homes featuring air conditioning (A/C). Oregon's electrical grid will be tested during this unprecedented heat wave, as those lucky residents with air conditioning will undoubtedly run them at full capacity. Potential power outages from high electricity demand could add another event to the history books on the heels of the pandemic, wildfires, and winter power outages.


Unfortunately, Portland seniors are some of the most at-risk to experience negative effects of historic heat waves. Seniors are more likely to live in homes built before 1970, which is before air conditioning became more popular across the country. Additionally, seniors who live by themselves may find it more challenging to recognize symptoms of heat-related illnesses before requiring medical assistance.


Here are 5 ways that seniors in Portland can hopefully stay cool and safe in this unprecedented heat wave:


1. Keep Your Windows Closed.

When the temperature outside is warmer than inside, opening your window will let in hotter air and heat up your home. If your home happens to have an air conditioner, having windows open while running your air conditioning will waste energy by trying to cool the hot outdoor air. If you choose to open the windows, be sure the air outside is cooler than the indoor temperature!


2. Close Your Blinds and Curtains.

Closing your blinds can help insulate your home by deflecting the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which heat up your home. If you do have an air conditioner, leaving your blinds open will make your air conditioner work harder too. Blocking out the direct sunlight will help your home stay cooler!


3. Set Your A/C to a Reasonable Temperature.

When we start to feel hot, our first inclination is to crank the air conditioner to a very low temperature. However, in extreme heat, some air conditioners can't keep up with cooling needs. Setting your air conditioner to extremely low temperatures may cause it overwork, which could cause mechanical issues that could leave you without air conditioning. Set your air conditioner to a reasonable temperature, such as 76 degrees or higher, to hopefully ensure your system keeps up with your needs without issues.


4. Limit Time Outside.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are common health concerns when spending time outside in extreme temperatures. Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses are often hard to spot before needing to seek medical attention. It's recommended to 1) limit time outdoors; 2) when spending time outside, stay in shaded areas whenever possible; and 3) take frequent breaks indoors to cool down. Feel overheated? Take a cool shower or enjoy some cool liquids inside.


5. Keep Well Hydrated.

Dehydration is a leading contributor to heat-related illnesses. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to keep your body temperature at normal levels, as well as replace minerals and fluids that your body naturally sweats out in high temperatures. Hydration can be accomplished through more than just drinking water though. Read our tips to staying hydrated and recognizing dehydration here. Most liquids and water-rich foods (popsicles, anyone?) will also contribute to hydrating your body. Get creative with hydration!


This article was written by the staff at Greenridge Estates Assisted Living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. To learn more about Greenridge Estates or to contact us directly, please visit our homepage here.