By Sherman Farralone, Quilt staff
DATELINE: JORDAN AVENUE
In addition to offering a cool, air-conditioned retreat to help escape the effects of the current heatwave, the Canoga Park Senior Citizens' Center is launching a new pilot program that may help seniors deal with high temperatures in other ways.
“Summer just began today and already the West Valley's a blast furnace” says Jeanette Ulichny of LA's Department of Age & Age-Related Aging. “It’s only going to get worse and we’re guaranteed to get no relief until November. That’s why we’re exploring new approaches to help seniors deal with the heat.”
According to Ulichny, when the Senior Center reaches capacity, three seniors will be selected at random, escorted outside and directed to climb into one of three large cardboard boxes sitting on the sidewalk in the hot sun. The boxes will then be duct-taped shut and the seniors will endure invigoratingly stifling heat for five to seven minutes.
“Once we let them back out, the outside temperature, no matter how high, will seem delightfully refreshing by comparison. Then, after another ten minutes standing on the sidewalk in the hot sun, slurping steaming hot mugs of Pepsi Fire, they’ll be allowed in the Senior Center again and three other guests will be moved outside and into the boxes," says Ulichny, who developed the practice, known as "cartoning," when she worked as the activity director for a now-defunct chain of low-cost nursing home facilities.
|A favorite with seniors, Tuscan|
Pops were discontinued in 1983.
Extreme heat on the body often can result in lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation — two positive effects that many elderly folks may benefit from. Additionally, the "cartoning" experience could potentially help aged persons on hot days when they can't make it to the Senior Citizens' Center or any of LA's other cooling centers.
"Where they otherwise might sit in their homes thinking 'Christ almighty, this heat is unbearable,'" explains Ulichny, "Now they might think 'Wow, yeah, this heat's a real bastard, the a/c hasn't worked in years, I'm out of Tuscan Pops and I'm stuck to this vinyl-backed chair — but at least I'm not in The Box.'"
Ulichny notes that if successful, the program may be extended to allow for additional boxes. “My husband and I just bought a new stove, so I may bring the carton with me tomorrow.”
• • • • •Correction: Whoops! Turns out the Canoga Park Senior Citizens' Center is in no danger of overcrowding and is a marvelous place for those who need to cool down in an air-conditioned environment to spend the day. We regret the error. For a complete list of LA County Cooling Centers click here, or dial 311 from your telephone.