The heat wave was challenging for the elderly who are more likely to live alone, have possible difficulties drinking lots of water, are less able to detect their body is overheating, may live in a home that does not offer air conditioning or good cross ventilation, have difficulty accessing cool parts of their house such as the basement and have greater overall health frailty. (Metro Creative photo)

The heat wave was challenging for the elderly who are more likely to live alone, have possible difficulties drinking lots of water, are less able to detect their body is overheating, may live in a home that does not offer air conditioning or good cross ventilation, have difficulty accessing cool parts of their house such as the basement and have greater overall health frailty. (Metro Creative photo)

Heat alert: Okanagan woman calls for A/C in seniors’ homes ahead of summer

Alysha-Dawn Wolf says her mother is living in a hot box, doesn’t have money to spare

If there are rules about leaving pets and kids in hot vehicles, why are there no rules about leaving seniors in homes without proper ventilation or air conditioning?

That’s a question Alysha-Dawn Wolf posed, noting her mother is in a Sicamous seniors’ building with no air conditioning despite the call to keep people safe during intense summer temperatures by the provincial government.

After a heat wave from June 18 to August 12, 2021, that claimed the lives of 595 people, Wolf started a petition on Change.org last year to make it mandatory to have air conditioning units in seniors’ living facilities.

“It was apparently a cost issue. Now that we’re heading back into the summer, the same place that I was having issues (with last year) where my mother is living, they’re now saying the seniors can have one (air conditioning) but they have to pay an extra $100 a month. They have to have a certified electrician come in to install them, and a lot of the seniors just don’t have that extra $100 a month to pay for air condition.”

READ MORE: Sicamous woman petitions for mandatory air conditioning in seniors housing

The petition has over 500 signatures and Wolf plans to push it again this year.

“I know the places where my mother is, it’s not ventilated that well either. They only have a small window in the living room. So, for me knowing that she’s going to be staying there and last year the walls were sweating when I walked in there, this year they’re trying to even push it further where they have to pay such a high cost, for me I think it’s ridiculous.”

Wolf says the government needs to address the problem and take care of its seniors because even efforts from family have failed.

“My step-dad had brought her an air conditioner and was going to install it, and they told her no.”

That’s when they were told if she wanted to put a unit there would be a monthly fee to go with it and she would have to fork out the money for a professional to install the air conditioner.

“Last year they kind of allowed it because the petition kind of heated the situation… but this year they said ‘We’re not doing what we did last year, we’re going to make all these regulations.’”

Seniors living facilities in Sicamous are overseen by the Eagle Valley Senior Citizens Housing Society. Housing administrator Phaedra Idzan says two of the three facilities have air conditioning and residents at The Haven are able to request one.

“At The Haven they have to ask for permission because it’s a 1974 building.”

Idzan said the steps to getting an air conditioner is as simple as writing to the board, “then we put it forward to the rental board committee and then they make a decision. We just had somebody ask a while ago for (an air conditioner) and there are perameters regarding what they are allowed to have, because again we have to have a dedicated circuit for an air conditioner and our wiring is old… 1974 wiring, and it has to be energy efficient.”

Idzan said when it comes to the monthly costs, they’re still working on it. “There might be a surcharge for that. Sometimes people have actually volunteered to pay an extra $20, which we won’t say no to.”

Thankfully, Environment Canada Meteorologist Bobby Sekhon doesn’t see any extreme heat in the immediate forecast.

“We’ll be definitely on the watch for that. Those things can still occur at the end of June, especially in July and August. It’s just only the start of the season really.”

The provincial government announced on June 6 a new heat alert system for reporting dangerous temperatures.

“It’s vital that we take the lessons we learned from last year’s devastating heat dome to make sure that the Province and our health-care system are as prepared and resilient as possible during extreme heat,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The new heat alert and response system and actions we’re taking to strengthen the ambulance system and emergency care will help ensure people across B.C. are safe during future heat waves.”

READ MORE: B.C. launches heat alert system following 2021’s deadly heat dome


@thebrittwebster
brittany.webster@blackpress.ca

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HealthHeat waveSeniorsseniors housing