The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though
An elderly Citymeals (meals on wheels) recipient shelters from a heat wave in her NYC apartment.

Heat Waves on the Rise

July 3, 2023, was the hottest day ever recorded globally. The very next day, that record was broken. And, before summer is over, it could be broken again. In New York City, we can expect extreme heat waves to last into September. 

For older adults, especially those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease or diabetes, extreme heat can be incredibly dangerous. Each year, heat kills more people than any other weather event, according to the National Weather Service.

Citymeals on Wheels recipient Jackie sits by her air conditioner. Heat waves make her health conditions worse.

At 73 years old, Jackie feels the heat now more than ever. A few years ago, Jackie underwent heart surgery to have one of her valves replaced. Since then, the heat waves have been especially rough. Even at moderate temperatures, Jackie often gets winded after just one flight of stairs. When it gets too hot, she struggles to climb the stairs in her own home. Jackie has to sleep on the couch in the living room — the only room that has air conditioning.

In New York City, most heat-related deaths occur among people who are in their homes or apartments without air conditioning. Even if people have air conditioning units, those living on fixed incomes are often reluctant to use it because of the cost. But summers are significantly hotter than when our grandparents were children. Back then, you could beat the heat by loosening up the bolt on a fire hydrant or climbing out onto the fire escape. But now due to climate change, air conditioning is a lifesaving necessity.

If you have older neighbors, be sure to remind them to use air conditioning, drink water, wear light, loose fitting clothes, stay indoors and limit physical activity as temperatures soar. Even setting the air conditioning at 78 degrees is enough to keep them safe and comfortable, as well as save money on utility bills. For those who can’t stay cool at home, call 311 for information about cooling centers located throughout the city.

Food For Thought