WHEN temperatures were forecast to exceed 40 degrees Celsius at the beginning of the year in 2013, the Hunter Valley Zoo took action to protect its animals, making sure all were housed in air conditioned buildings prior to the onset of the heatwave.

“The animals seem to cope OK while the temperatures are still in the 30s, but when we hit 40 that’s when they really struggle, especially if the animal is old, young or a bit weak,” said the zoo’s Managing Director Jason Pearson.

Old and weak humans also really struggle in the heat.

But unlike this zoo, institutions housing such older folk (like nursing homes) don’t always take this kind of initiative when temperatures soar.    

Fast forward to 2021 and there is STILL no requirement for Australian nursing homes to have air conditioning.

When a heatwave hits, residents in unairconditioned nursing homes swelter, or worse, die.

Studies have shown that mortality increases once temperatures rise above 30 degrees, with the elderly being at particular risk.    

It seems obvious that air conditioning should be a requirement in all nursing homes, to protect residents during extreme heat.

At least the Department of Health and Ageing takes some initiative when heatwaves are forecast.

It sends out advice to all nursing homes that they should ensure residents have enough water to drink and stay indoors.

One would think that this is common sense, but CPSA has heard of residents being found in woollen jumpers and without water in non-air-conditioned nursing homes during 40-degree heat.

If air conditioning is considered essential for animals in a zoo, don’t nursing home residents deserve at least the same level of care?

While we’re on the topic, CPSA also believes that air conditioning should be installed in public housing, particularly in areas that are prone to extremely high (and low) temperatures.

Author:  Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association - NSW (CPSA)