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Published: Thursday, 6/24/2010

NW Ohio Senior centers offer space to beat the heat

BY GRETA STETSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Moyas know all too well the effects of extreme heat on their bodies and their health.

Olivia Moya, a senior citizen who was staying cool at the Zablocki Senior Center in North Toledo Wednesday, said certain pills she takes will make her dizzy if she gets too hot.

And she said the weather can also aggravate her husband Delfino's health as he has a pacemaker.

In anticipation of this week's heat and humidity, the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio released a list of emergency cooling centers on Monday where elderly residents can find air-conditioned relief from high temperatures.

Emilie Owens, the emergency coordinator for the Office on Aging, said the cooling centers - five were set up for Tuesday and yesterday - will be asked to stay open past their normal hours in extreme cases, such as when the heat index is above 95 or when there have been three or four days of "oppressive and unbearable heat."

The designated centers are the Margaret Hunt Senior Center, the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center, the East Toledo Family Center, and the Zablocki Senior Center, all in Toledo, and the Sylvania Senior Center in Sylvania.

Meteorologists initially predicted temperatures would jump into the 90s yesterday, but the high fell much lower at 83 degrees.

According to the National Weather Service, the record for yesterday's date was 96, set in 1911, and last year the Toledo area reached 89 degrees.

Jim Gramza, the executive director of the Zablocki Senior Center, said it has been acting as an emergency cooling center for at least 10 years.

For the elderly, he said, staying in air-conditioned spaces is necessary for preventing heat exhaustion, and that fans are just not enough.

"All the fans do is blow hot air," he said.

Margarita Ruiz said she has to stay cool on hot days to prevent her asthma from flaring up.

She recently was released from the hospital, a stay that was blamed on baby-sitting her grandchildren who live in a house without air conditioning.

At Zablocki yesterday, those gathered played Bingo and checkers at round tables.

Though many said they had air conditioning in their homes, Ms. Ruiz said it is "nicer to be here with other people."

One group was playing poker, betting with cups of pennies.

"If it wasn't for the gambling, I wouldn't come here," Quincey Allen joked.

Mr. Gramza said there have been times when only a few people came for the additional hours of air conditioning, but that, even then, staying open later is worthwhile.

"Those one or two people that came really needed it," he said.

Ms. Owens said the Office on Aging began educating seniors on the dangers of excessive heat in 1995, when a mid-July heat wave in Chicago killed approximately 700 people, most of whom were elderly.

"Following that, agencies such as ours realized that this was an important part of our mission," she said, adding that her office came up with the cooling centers concept a few years later.

Contact Greta Stetson at:

gstetson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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