Climate Change Threatens the Health of Aging Adults, Researchers Say

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A series of research articles published in the scientific journal The Gerontologist collectively outline several risks that climate change poses for aging well.

The journal’s special issue, titled “Climate Change and Aging,” presents multiple links between climate change and human health, particularly for aging adults.

In one of the forum articles included in the special issue, “A Framework for Assessing the Effects of Climate Change on Dementia Risk and Burden,” researchers noted the risk of worsening Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) because of climate change.

The study’s authors showed multiple ways that climate change could directly and indirectly impact people with ADRD, such as how extreme heat and wildfires can impact healthcare infrastructure, housing, community programming and biological processes. They also noted how climate action could improve health outcomes and the aging experience.

“Because the same fossil fuels that are causing climate havoc are also spewing harmful air pollution that harms older people disproportionately, a transition away from these polluting energy sources towards cleaner, healthier options (such as solar power and wind energy) can deliver benefits for our health and the climate,” wrote Dr. Vijay Limaye, co-author of the study and director of Applied Research Initiatives, Science Office & International, for the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “But because of the scale of climate pollution that we’ve already added to the Earth’s atmosphere, we must also better prepare our communities for the climate hazards that we will continue to face in future years.”

One of the research articles included in the special issue further examined climate impacts on people with dementia, particularly in terms of disaster preparedness for the people living with dementia and their caregivers, highlighting a need for more resources for caregivers to reduce the stress of disaster preparedness for aging populations.

Another forum article, “Age-Friendly and Climate Resilient Communities: A Grey–Green Alliance,” noted that existing frameworks to address livability and wellness for aging populations typically don’t incorporate climate resilience. So the study authors wrote a framework to complement the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities with an emphasis on sustainability.

In one of the research articles, “Population Aging and Heat Exposure in the 21st Century: Which U.S. Regions Are at Greatest Risk and Why?” researchers identified areas of the U.S. where older adults faced the highest risk of extreme heat, including New England, the upper Midwest and rural mountain regions.

Similarly, another research article included in the special issue examined vulnerabilities to extreme heat in Portland, Oregon, and found one area of the city in particular that was the most vulnerable to extreme heat also included a high number of older adults and had the highest concentration of housing with age and income restrictions.

Additional studies in the special issue examined states’ climate adaptation plans and how they address aging populations, emotional well-being for people of different ages who have experienced stress related to hurricanes, and a series of interviews between climate activists ages 16 to 76, which revealed compassion across generations rather than blaming or criticizing.

“Our world is experiencing significant alterations and challenges due to climate change,” the special issue authors concluded. “This Special Issue of The Gerontologist clarifies that the seismic changes wrought by climate change will similarly alter how we age and study the aging process.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

Like MediaFeed's content? Be sure to follow us.