If you’re feeling the heat in recent weeks, you’re not alone. The Greater Boston area has experienced three heat waves this summer, where temperatures reached at least 90 degrees for three or more consecutive days.
Warm weather is nice, but extreme heat can pose health risks, especially for older adults and people with chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) cautions that extreme heat can overwhelm the body’s natural cooling systems, leading to heat exhaustion or heat stroke—which in turn can damage the brain and other vital organs.
The good news is that our communities provide cooling centers throughout the summer, and take additional steps to help during heat emergencies, which are declared by the cities under certain circumstances.
The Cambridge and Somerville Councils on Aging both serve as cooling centers during the summer months and sometimes offer extended hours during heat emergencies.
In Cambridge, officials monitor the heat index and weather conditions throughout the season, and advise the City Manager on when to declare a formal heat emergency. In Somerville, city officials consider a range of factors—including heat and humidity– before declaring a weather emergency. Weather alerts are announced through the city of Somerville’s website, social media feeds, and public service announcements.
Each city develops its own strategy for combating the heat. Cambridge Senior Centers Director Susan Pacheco said they provide information and assistance to older adults who call. They also provide additional resources, such as box fans, to Cambridge residents over 60 who meet income guidelines.
Somerville residents are encouraged to call 311. The information line is open 24/7 and operators can apprise residents of resources during heat advisories, including which city buildings will be open and air-conditioned. Doug Kress, Somerville’s Director of Health and Human Services, said that older adults can also request wellness checks from the city. To receive check-ins by phone during emergencies, older residents should contact the Somerville Council on Aging.
In both communities, the Aging Information Center at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is another resource for information and guidance on how to handle heat-related concerns. While we don’t operate any cooling centers of our own, we are in-the-loop about related resources and we’re happy to help.
So enjoy the summer and warm weather. But be sure to stay cool, and know the warning signs of heat-related illness. The CDC website has a very nice chart that outlines the warning signs, and also gives advice on what to do (visit cdc.gov and search “Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness”).
Who to contact:
The Cambridge Council on Aging: 617-349-6220 (voice), 617-349-6050 (TTY)
Located at 806 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
The Cambridge City Manager’s Office: 617-349-4300
795 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
The Somerville Council on Aging: 617-625-6600 x2300
Located at 167 Holland Street, Somerville
The Cross St. Center is located at 165 Broadway, Somerville
Somerville 311: dial 311 or 617-666-3311 (if outside the city or using a cell phone)
SCES is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit eldercare.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.