The Effect of Climate Change on Older Adults

There will be more hotter days in most areas of the country due to climate change according to Hossein Estiri, a computations demographer at Harvard Medical school. If you need proof, the average temperature in Anchorage, Alaska in the summer is 65 degrees. So far this summer their temperatures have exceeded 90 degrees.

In a world that is both warming and aging rapidly, older adults suffer disproportionately from climate change according to Dr. Estiri.

Consider extreme heat. “It puts a stress on anybody’s body, but if you’re old and frail, it’s harder, according to Patrick Kinney, who studies the effects of climate on health at Boston University School of Public Health. In addition, he claims, certain medications older people take for blood pressure or cholesterol, reduce the body’s ability to thermo-regulate.”

The risk of heat stroke, which is potentially fatal, increases because older adults may be less mobile and thus less able to reach cooler locations in a heat wave such as a cooling center if their home is not air conditioned. They may also be socially isolated and less able to seek help before their condition worsens into an emergency.

If an older adult is dehydrated, they are at greater risk of heat stroke sooner meaning they will lose consciousness. Moreover, with impaired cognitive function, “you may be less able to judge what to do,” Dr. Kinney asserts. Air pollution often associated with heat waves intensifies breathing problems and other medical conditions.

Aside from heat waves, climate change will bring other kinds of extreme weather and disasters. People over the age of 60 will be disproportionately affected. Nearly half of the individuals who died during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were 75+. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, almost half of those who died were over the age of 65.

Blackouts have proved particularly dangerous. Older people are largely dependent upon electricity for keeping medications refrigerated, oxygen machines functioning, scooters charged, or simply using a land line when a cell phone isn’t available.

Acknowledge it or not, the climate is changing all around us no matter where we live on the planet. It is up to each and every one of us to be prepared for whatever comes our way environmentally by keeping ourselves educated, our homes equipped with automatic generators, air conditioned, and by having enough food and water for at least a week. Ultimately, your life will depend on the measures that you take today to safeguard yourself from disaster. If you live in Suffolk County contact PSEG and ask for help in safeguarding your home and your self in the event of electrical outages by telling them that a disabled person lives in your home, the single biggest problem you will face in the event of a damaging storm. If they have record of you and those in your home they will make repairs in your area first.


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