By Daisy Garcia Montoya
As spring turns into summer and the temperature continues to rise, senior citizens could find themselves suffering from extreme temperatures in their homes due to the lack of air conditioners.
For the last 20 years, Bishop Sullivan Center, 6435 E. Truman Rd., has helped this cause through Project ElderCool. The program was initiated to help seniors during the extreme heat that summer brings.
In the summer of 1999, 21 seniors lost their lives in Kansas City due to deadly heat. This prompted Bishop Sullivan Center to create Project ElderCool, which runs annually from June to August. Since the program began in the summer of 2000, over 5,600 air conditioner units have been installed in seniors’ homes.
Air conditioners will continue to be installed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while following safety and health guidelines, Director of Bishop Sullivan Center Tom Turner said.
“Everyone is wearing masks whenever we install them,” Turner said. “We’re telling people to keep their distance and we’ve already started installing some. We installed five this week.”
When asked if there was a set number of air conditioner units available, Turner said it was based on the need of the community. In order to receive a free air conditioner, seniors must meet eligibility requirements. Once their application has been accepted, the wait for cool air is brief.
“Once someone has applied and been accepted, depending on demand and heat, it’s installed the same day or the next day,” Turner said.
To be eligible for a free air conditioner unit, seniors must be 65 or older without an air conditioner unit at home, live under 150% of the poverty threshold or have a respiratory disability. Those eligible can call (816) 231-0984 to apply over the phone.
In addition to Project ElderCool, Bishop Sullivan Center offers rent and utilities assistance, employment services and a food pantry. More information can be found at www.bishopsullivan.org.