Senior Receives New Air Conditioning Unit in Midst of Summer Heat

July 2021

Just in time for the soaring summer temperatures, a local senior is thankful for her new air conditioning unit provided to her at no cost through the collaboration between the Maricopa County Human Services Department (HSD) and the Area Agency on Aging.

“The temperature inside, during that week, it was a very hot week, was like 83… 86 and finally, it got up to 96,” says Elizabeth Austin, a Maricopa County resident. “That’s unbearable.”

Austin tried to apply for financing for the unit that would have cost her $11,000. With her fixed income, Austin was denied financing. That’s when she turned to her case manager from the Maricopa County Human Services Department. “Within seven days, I had a new air conditioner,” said Austin.

In its latest report on heat-associated deaths, Maricopa County Public Health reports that there have been 26 confirmed cases of heat-associated deaths since April 11 of this year, with another 148 deaths under investigation for heat-related circumstances. At this time last year, there were six confirmed deaths.

“As we age, our bodies become less tolerant of extreme temperatures — especially sustained heat without access to cooling,” says Laura Henry, Assistant Director of Maricopa County’s Senior and Adult Services Division of Human Services. “Because we serve over 3300 aging adults and adults with disabilities in the community, we knew we had to act fast with the June heat having been so intense. Our partners at the Area Agency on Aging were quick to respond and we’re thrilled Ms. Austin is now safe and comfortable in her own home.”

Eight-one percent of the 26 confirmed heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County, this year, have occurred in people aged 50 and older. Eleven of the 26 deaths occurred indoors with a non-functioning air condition unit a factor in 73%, or 8 of the 11, cases.

“Our goal is to ensure that we are making an impact in the lives of seniors,” said Lizzie Kazan with the Area Agency on Aging. “Through the CARES Act funding, we were able to immediately address the urgent need of Ms. Austin through our close collaboration with the Human Services case managers who are out in the community and, now once again, able to make these important home visits to seniors to identify and address their needs.”

“We want to ensure that any senior in need of support is connected to services and resources,” said Henry. “We see stories like Ms. Austin quoted often where the personal connection senior residents have with their case managers not only offers the conduit for them to receive resources, but also provides that important human connection, especially during this challenging recovery period from COVID-19.”

Heat Relief: Maricopa County reminds all residents and visitors to the region that cooling and hydration stations are available at no charge and are open to the public throughout the heat season. For more information on these stations and how to recognize signs of heat illness, visit http://heataz.org.

Utility Assistance: The Maricopa County Human Services Department has launched a Client Portal to accept online applications for rental, mortgage, and utility assistance. Visit https://hsdclientportal.maricopa.gov/ to apply. For more information on the programs and services available to Maricopa County seniors through the Human Services Department, visit HSD.maricopa.gov.

The Area Agency on Aging (AAA) offers programs and services in Maricopa County for adults aged 60 years and older and their caregivers, persons with disabilities and long-term care needs aged 18 to 59. AAA also serves populations with specialty needs such as elder refugees, persons with behavioral health conditions and victims of elder abuse and sexual assault. AAA seeks to partner with the community to foster innovative programs and services to enrich the quality of life for older adults, caregivers and diverse populations.

As the fourth most populous county in the nation, the Maricopa County Human Services Department, Early Education, Community Services, Workforce Development, Housing & Community Development and Senior and Adult Services. HSD’s programs help residents navigate around barriers, establish a strong educational foundation, secure and rehabilitate housing, access employment opportunities and stay connected through case management services. In addition to its role in supporting county residents’ quality of life, HSD provides leadership across the region, fostering collaboration and partnerships with public and private organizations that continuously works to provide coordinated and comprehensive human services to improve the lives of Maricopa County residents.

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