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Dr Federico Tartarini (right). Photo: Supplied

What’s heat got to do with it? Temperature tied to resident wellbeing

Research from the University of Wollongong (UOW) has shown that indoor temperatures in aged care homes could dramatically alter the wellbeing of residents, particularly those with dementia.

Researchers at the UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre undertook a study of thermal comfort in aged care centres in the Illawarra to determine what temperature variations residents were living with.

The study found that indoor temperature played an important role in comfort for residents, as well as their health and behaviour.

Researcher Dr Federico Tartarini collected data from five aged care facilities in the Illawarra, in warmer and cooler seasons, using a high-tech, wheeled-walker fitted with temperature, humidity and air velocity sensors.

The results revealed that residents felt comfortable over a wider range of temperatures compared to aged care staff.

“Some residents reported that even though they sometimes felt uncomfortable, either too hot or cold, they still felt that the thermal conditions in their aged care facility were acceptable.

“Importantly, we also found that there was a statistically significant increase in the frequency of agitated behaviour manifested by residents living with dementia for those who were exposed to temperatures outside the comfort band,” Tartarini said.

“Older people, and in particular those with dementia, may have decreased sensitivity to temperature changes and dementia may impair their ability to adapt to their environment, that is why good thermal care should be provided to them.”

The World Health Organization suggests that older people should not be exposed to temperatures lower than 20 degrees, while the International Organization for Standardization recommends maximum temperatures not exceed 26 degrees.

Tartarini shed more light on the study.

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