Heat waves tax AC units, cause health risks for elderly West Texans

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 5:50 PM CDT
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - Midland nonprofit Christmas In Action has seen an uptick in air conditioning repair requests from seniors due to repeated heat waves this summer.

A broken air conditioner is an inconvenience, but for vulnerable populations like seniors, it can be a health risk.

Christmas In Action has received daily calls from seniors in need of air conditioning help. The nonprofit aids seniors and people with disabilities with home repairs.

“A lot of the repairs that we end up doing are installing window units. A lot of the homes that we are servicing do not have central air systems or are on the old evaporative air systems, and so they do not do very well in this high heat,” said Nathan Knowles, director of operations at Christmas In Action.

This summer’s intense and repeated heat waves have strained these older systems.

“We’re seeing a huge increase with this prolonged exposure. Most people can get by for a couple of weeks with window units that they may have already had or older units with some fans,” Knowles said. “But this long duration of heat, it’s really stressed a lot of people’s systems.”

That uptick may continue to rise as more triple digit heat is expected this week. The nonprofit has already used its stockpile of window units.

“This year I’ve already gone through our stockpile that we had ready to go for this season and had to order an additional 20 more,” Knowles said. “...We’re hoping that they’ll last us for the rest of the season.”

For seniors, especially those that are homebound without other options, a lack of air conditioning can be dangerous, according to Tracy Renton, development director at Senior Life Midland.

“The extreme temperatures, such as this, a senior’s body is very susceptible to dehydration,” Renton said.

That raises their risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Other factors also make seniors vulnerable.

“Many times seniors are on medication that they should not be getting overheated,” Renton said.

That’s why Senior Life Midland’s Meals on Wheels volunteers are trained to keep an eye out for seniors facing heat wave health risks. However, to keep all seniors safe, it takes a community.

“As this heat gets rough, [seniors] may not realize how uncomfortable or how much stress they’re putting themselves through,” Knowles said. “So it’s always good, just as a community, to keep an eye out for each other and checking in with those elderly that are in our community.”

Christmas In Action encourages anyone in need of home repair to reach out at 432-683-4177. Those interested can also make a donation so the nonprofit can continue this work.