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San Diego seniors find community and cool relief from summer heat

Dozens of seniors seek relief from the summer heat by spending a few hours inside the Salvation Army in Serra Mesa. They eat lunch, play bingo and most importantly, keep cool.

Inger Huffman, 72, has been coming here since January. She recently learned about the health risks seniors face during the summer, including preventative tips.

“That you need to drink water all the time or as much as you can and be in the shade and stay indoors, not be outdoors during the warmest, only early in the morning and late in the evening. So education that’s what it’s about,” she said.

The summer heat can bring hidden health risks for seniors: Heat exhaustion, strokes and falls.

Geriatrician Ian Neel said it’s also important for seniors to be mindful of their medications.

“A lot of people as we get older have to take medications that affect blood pressure. If we get dehydrated it can actually lower our blood pressure too much and put us at increased risk of falls,” Neel said.

He said during hot spells, it’s crucial for seniors to have a support system in place.

“It’s one thing if we get a little bit dehydrated and somebody is there to say, ‘Hey, you’re looking a little off here, why don’t you sit down and drink some water?’ But if there’s nobody there to say that to us, then, you know, our thinking can become impaired from dehydration, and from what’s called heat exhaustion, and that can lead us to think that we’re okay when we’re not.”

For Huffman, the time spent indoors at the Salvation Army is about more than just staying cool—it’s a chance to socialize, connect, and find community.

“They get more than (being) cooled down. The most important thing, really, (they’re being) loved. And it just makes a difference in people’s life,” Huffman said.

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