Eating well and getting exercise are the usual guidelines for living a longer and healthier life.
But how about the air we breathe, not only outdoors, but indoors?
It’s said that humans can’t survive without food for three weeks, without water for three days, and without air for three minutes. Needless to say, air is the most crucial. But what if that air contains germs, pollutants or dust particles?
The quality of the air we breathe, especially indoors, is crucial for living a healthy and longer life, and now more than ever in light of the pandemic, indoor air quality has become one of the most crucial components of any building, especially for senior living facilities.
As seniors are more susceptible to COVID-19 due to weaker immune systems, they also often have a reduced opportunity for movement and outdoor activity. As a result, they are exposed for far longer periods to the harmful effects of poor indoor air quality and have less of an opportunity for social distancing. Additionally, due to their age, their respiratory systems are not as robust, and therefore would benefit greatly from cleaner, fresher, contaminants-free air.
Many everyday airborne contaminants, even COVID-19 in some cases, that normally would only cause minor discomfort in a younger person, can cause much more serious discomfort, or even illness or death, in a senior. With age, the body’s ability to deal with these various assaults on its system get weaker and worn down, and render seniors less able to combat various lung & heart conditions that can make them ill. This is why, when there are COVID-19 outbreaks or pollution indexes are higher (particulates, pollen, ozone, etc), they issue warnings for seniors to remain indoors or away from large groups of people.
The problem is that over the last 10 years, with buildings working to conserve energy, they now trap more contaminants, which statistics say can make “indoor air 3 to 5 times worse than outdoor air”. In turn, a comprehensive and thorough plan to strengthen indoor air quality is of the highest priority.
The two main areas of concern for seniors when it comes to the quality of the air they breathe is whether they are in a normal residential setting, or in a long-term care/healthcare setting.
In a seniors residential setting, it’s more a matter of giving them the best comfort available, and minimizing at best their exposure to airborne contaminants (COVID-19, allergens, particulates, string VOCs, etc), and at worst, controlling/limiting exposure to various pathogens (mold, viruses, bacteria) that could make them sick.
In a long term care/critical care setting, where resident seniors are older, weaker, and often saddled with various conditions, if not outright illnesses, it becomes more crucial to limit, if not eliminate, their exposure to all these contaminants, especially pathogens.
In such settings, the usual well-known “best practices” strategy for maintaining good air quality include properly managing the following 3 areas: Source Control, Proper Ventilation, and Air Cleaning:
- Source Control: this includes minimizing activities and products that generate airborne contaminants, such as particulates (like using vacuum systems with good filters, that don’t throw a lot of dust back into the air), VOCs (like using low-emission cleaning products, with as few toxic or irritating VOCs as possible), and others.
- Proper Ventilation:
- Following local ventilation codes, that require bringing in a certain amount of “fresh” outside air (OA).
- Maintaining HVAC ductwork (if present) as clean as possible. Over time, ductwork collects various dust, particulates & physical contaminants.
- Air Cleaning: Installing and maintaining the best air cleaning or purifying technologies they can afford. They should include the following components:
- High-efficiency filtration on the intake of Outside Air (OA): this means filters of a higher rating than a typical MERV-8 filter (designed mostly to protect HVAC equipment, not people). A MERV-11 or 13 rated filter is good
- UV systems to keep the coils clean and prevent moisture-induced growth of mold and/or bacteria
- Air purifying technology, especially one that works in the space, via the Supply Air: These are intended to attack and break down the indoor contaminants they encounter. One excellent such technology is “bi-polar ionization”, which originated in Europe in the 1950s, and has been around the USA for nearly 15 years. It has the unique capability of attacking and breaking down nearly all the contaminants that seniors would want to avoid, in the spaces they live in, where they need them the most. It is also highly effective against offensive odors.
Seniors will benefit immensely from the highest indoor air quality available, as a means of enjoying greater comfort, extending their life, and maintaining better general sickness-free health for as long as possible.
Carlos Gendron is a Vice President at AtmosAir Solutions ( www.atmosair.com) in Fairfield, CT. AtmosAir provides clean Green, indoor air quality systems for residential and commercial buildings.