New study highlights impact of environmental change on older people

Recent natural disasters illustrate vulnerability of older people: majority of deaths from the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011) and Hurricane Katrina (2005) occurred among older people.

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York and Simon Fraser University's Gerontology Research Centre in Canada are calling for better awareness among and the public of the impact climate change and deteriorating environmental quality will have on an .

According to UN projections, by 2050, nearly 25 per cent of the will be aged 55 or over. An and are two key policy challenges which need to be addressed to ensure a safe, secure, equitable and sustainable future. But international policy makers have given little attention to the effects will have on .

A new report from an international consortium led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York and Simon Fraser University's Gerontology Research Centre, and including the Community Service Volunteers' Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), highlights the need to raise awareness of the effects of a changing environment on older people across the world.

Dr Gary Haq, of SEI, said: "Our study shows that older people are particularly vulnerable to environmental change – but awareness among policy makers and older people is lagging behind. There is an urgent need for policy makers to better understand the interaction between global ageing and the environment to prevent and minimise disproportionate negative impacts on older people."

The results of a pilot international survey of older people's attitudes suggest they are concerned about the environment, the threat of climate change and energy and . They are pessimistic about the state of the planet that will inherit believing will have grown significantly by 2050.

Professor Gloria Gutman, Research Associate at Simon Fraser University's Gerontology Research Centre said: "Older people themselves, and especially those with chronic illnesses, need to recognise that environmental change can affect them personally. Data from around the world show that weather-related disasters kill older people at a disproportionate rate."

The report calls for appropriate policies to encourage older people to reduce their personal contribution to environmental change, to protect older people from environmental threats, and to mobilise their wealth and knowledge and experience in addressing environmental problems.

The report highlights three areas where action should be taken.

1. Reduce the environmental footprint of the ageing population by promoting greener attitudes and behaviour and individual lifestyle choices. For example, ensuring homes are well-insulated which can also save on fuel bills or using more fuel-efficient cars or public transport. This could be done with targeted engagement of older people and providing appropriate infrastructure and incentives.

2. Protect older people from environmental change by adopting policies that reduce their environmental vulnerability. In developing countries, lack of basic infrastructure such as clean water and sanitation, health and social care combined with poverty and malnutrition make them vulnerable to environmental threats.

3. Mobilise older people in environmental protection by encouraging them to take part in environmental volunteering and making the most of their local knowledge of past environmental change.

The report underlines the need for more evidence-based research towards a better understanding of the unique geographical and socio-economic factors affecting interaction between older people and environmental change.

It calls for policies to be 'age proofed' so they support older people throughout their lives as well as harnessing the contribution they can make to addressing environmental threats and reducing their vulnerability.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Survey tracks '55+' attitudes about the environment

Feb 01, 2012

An international survey led by Simon Fraser University's Gerontology Research Centre (GRC) and the University of York's (UK) Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is tracking attitudes about the environment among those over ...

Environmental exodus

Nov 26, 2007

Climate change is the largest environmental change expected this century. It is likely to intensify droughts, storms and floods, which will undoubtedly lead to environmental migrations and potential conflicts in the areas ...

Recommended for you

CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate ...

Can you train your brain to crave healthy foods?

4 hours ago

The mere sight of a slice of gooey chocolate cake, a cheesy pizza, or a sizzling burger can drive us to eat these foods. In terms of evolution we show preference for high calorie foods as they are an important ...

What doctors say to LGBT teens matters

6 hours ago

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn ...

User comments