As AMP continues to observe Keep Michigan Warm Month, we want to highlight two of the most vulnerable populations: the elderly and the young. Among the 625,000 Michigan households that received home heating assistance in 2013, one-third included elderly residents and one-fifth were home to young children under the age of five.
Energy Assistance and the Elderly
Seniors are more likely to struggle to pay their bills because they often live on fixed incomes, so unexpected increases in heating costs can easily disrupt their budgets. That struggle is further complicated by the fact that, as people age, the harsh Michigan winters become more dangerous.
Moreover, the sense of touch and ability to perceive a change in temperature decreases later in life, so often seniors aren’t aware they are cold until it is a problem. Their bodies are not able to adjust as readily to extreme conditions, contributing to greater risks of hypothermia and frostbite. Seniors are also more likely to have chronic health conditions, usually made worse by extreme weather conditions.
Energy assistance programs—like the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW)—alleviate many of these problems by helping seniors manage their heating and energy costs. These vital programs help keep seniors’ homes warm during Michigan’s coldest months.
Young Children Especially Vulnerable
Young children, besides being dependent on adults, are also naturally vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Their smaller bodies lose heat more easily. Babies can’t shiver, so they’re unable to increase their body heat this way, and dry skin is a bigger concern for infants in the wintertime. Children’s immune systems are often weaker, so they are more vulnerable to germs, even indoors. They are also at greater risk of hypothermia and frostbite than adults.
Children in low-income families—where parents sometimes have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their bills on time—are especially susceptible to the effects of Michigan’s cold winters. Energy assistance programs help ensure at-risk children can remain happier and healthier because they come home to safe, warm households.
Smart Energy Policy Protects the Old and Young
Energy access, reliability, and fairness are perhaps some of the most important issues to the very young and very old alike. Energy assistance programs—along with energy policies that support Michigan energy, create local jobs, and promote a healthy Michigan economy—help Michigan provide for the needs of our elderly, our children, and everyone in between.