As dangerous temperatures surged this week, Oak Park and River Forest officials took swift action to check on one of the most vulnerable populations – seniors.
Throughout the two-day heatwave, the senior services department of the Oak Park and River Forest townships was out in the field doing home visits, delivering meals and conducting well-being checks for their senior clients. Several of senior citizens took advantage of the department’s Thursday movie showing of the 2014 film “Kingsman,” watching Colin Firth play a debonair spy while eating popcorn in the air-conditioned senior services building, 130 S. Oak Park Ave.
“We’re ensuring everyone is comfortable, has food and are staying hydrated,” said Pamela Mahn, senior services director of the Oak Park and River Forest townships.
People ages 65 and older are more prone to heat-related health problems, including heat stroke, for a variety of reasons, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seniors and elderly people do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperatures. They are also more likely to have a chronic medical condition, which can affect how their bodies respond to heat. Medications they take can also affect their bodies’ regulatory abilities to control temperature and perspiration.
Although neither Oak Park nor River Forest experienced a notable increase in ambulance calls from the heat, the Oak Park Fire Department received one heat-related ambulance call and some seniors still faced dangerous situations.
The air conditioning of local commercial real estate broker David King’s mother went out Wednesday night. Delores King was left without a proper cooling system amid the oppressive heat outside her Oak Park townhome.
The danger of the heat was compounded by her body’s inability to recognize the air conditioning had stopped. It wasn’t until her son stopped by Thursday morning that she learned it was broken.
“I said, ‘Mom, your AC is not working.’ And she goes, ‘Really?” King recounted to Wednesday Journal. “She was sitting there with a sweatshirt on.”
His brother spent all Thursday with their mother, who turned 93 the following day, as two different repairment from two different companies tried to fix her heat and cooling unit.
King spent the day going back and forth from work to the townhouse, keeping abreast of the situation and bringing over portable air conditioners.
Luckily for King, he did not have any viewings that day; the owners of vacant buildings on the market generally do not keep the air conditioning running and they don’t turn it on for showings. Had a client wished to see a property, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, King said. The safety of King’s mother comes first.
“My priority is getting the AC working for my mom.”
The portable units kept the heat at bay for King’s mother, whose 50-year-old air conditioning unit turned out to be kaput, according to King.
He was able to wish his mother a happy 93rd birthday in person on Friday as he installed new window air conditioning units for her.
Across the communities, businesses and residents stepped up to help the public beat the heat. A cooler full of bottled water helped to hydrate passersby, courtesy of Angie’s Pantry on 809 South Blvd. A printed sign advertising the free water hung in the window above the cooler, the top of which had a note on featuring a smiley face and the direction to “Help yourself!!” handwritten on a piece of eye-catching bright orange notepaper.
To beat the heat, the CDC recommends drinking more water than usual, not using the stove or the oven to cook, taking cool showers and baths, avoiding strenuous outdoor activity and wearing light, loose clothing. All of that should be practiced on top of the CDC’s number one recommendation: staying inside air-conditioned buildings.