Elderly can't afford air conditioning

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Imagine not having air conditioning on excessive heat warning days.

That is a reality for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable. According to a study released by the Arizona Department of Health, an average of 50 elderly people die each year because of the heat.
An inability to pay for air conditioning is a contributing factor.
“Is the AC on and are they able to afford it? A lot of people will turn it off because they can’t afford it,” said Zachary Matz from Scottsdale’s Beat the Heat program.
Matz and other workers bring bags loaded with bottled water and other hot weather essentials to elderly people.
On a Wednesday morning visit to 86-year-old Evelyn Damrow, Matz finds the air conditioning off.
“I don’t use the air conditioning in the summer time in my apartment,” said Damrow.
Unfortunately, Damrow’s situation is not out of the ordinary. Jennifer Murphy, a social worker who helps out with Beat the Heat, has seen senior citizens in unbearably hot homes.
“I went to an apartment with Beat the Heat and she was in her 80’s. She has some breathing problems, and this heat is just stifling her,” said Murphy.
Murphy said an inability to pay the electric bill is sometimes a reason the temperature gets so hot in the homes of the elderly, but so are other factors.
“They can’t assess the heat. They go out and do something they used to be able to do and the heat just gets to them,” said Murphy.
Beat the Heat conducts regular checks of the elderly in Scottsdale to help make sure they stay cool on hot summer days. The program also has resources to help with air conditioning bills.