Climate change can potentially disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations, including seniors. This group may be one of the most affected because of decreased mobility, physiological changes, and access to resources. These parameters tend to limit adaptability. The challenges seniors will face adapting to climate change could have significant implications for the individual’s health and the population as a whole.
Scientific findings indicate that the increase in greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere over the past 250 years has been the major contributor to climate change. This has been brought about by the use of fossil fuels, agricultural practices, and changes in the land. As these emissions have increased, one sees the continued rise of global mean surface temperatures. Left unabated, climate change will have serious impacts on the environment and on human health, political stability, and food production.
Seniors, in particular, are more vulnerable to:
Individual physiological and social factors associated with aging may render the effects of climate change on older adults more severe as compared to other demographics. Those with a pre-exposure health status that limits mobility, and those on medications that increase susceptibility to climate-related parameters are thus the most likely to be impacted. Accordingly, the oldest are the most likely to suffer impacts.
Socioeconomic disadvantages may limit the ability of individuals to avoid the negative impacts of climate change.
Selected Examples of How Climate Change May Affect Seniors
The impacts of exposure to heat are variable. The impact depends on how well housing structures and communities have accommodated to hot climate conditions over time. Historically impacts have been seen where extreme heat is unusual and unexpected. In these situations, older people and young children were the most likely to suffer health issues. Thus community and individual adaptation can be an effective mitigation strategy (air conditioning and/or community cooling centers) during severe heat waves. Individual health factors also interact with exposure to heat. Pre-existing chronic medical conditions (i.e., cardiovascular disease, obesity) make susceptibility to heat worse. These conditions, when coupled with social isolation and limited income, can create a lethal situation. Social setting and income help determine one's capacity to adapt.
Climate change will bring about more frequent and severe hurricanes. A significant percent of elders live in U.S. areas that are likely to see a hurricane. These areas also tend to have a significant number of long-term care facilities. These facilities pose an issue when area evacuations are required. Thus government and care providers must predefine approaches to evacuating frail and vulnerable older people. Older people may consider the burden of evacuation, relocation, and leaving property unattended to be too great. Thus they may tend to stay in place until it is too late for a safe evacuation.
Ambient air pollution, especially ozone and fine particulates, effects occur more frequently among older people, particularly those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.
Things Seniors Can Do to Mitigate Climate Change
Here is a great list of actions that you can take on a daily basis! This list was originally created by the EPA in this widget, however, they have not kept it up to date and many of the links were broken so we copied it here to ensure it would work:
Change the World—Start With ENERGY STAR
Encourage everyone to replace your light bulbs with ones that have the ENERGY STAR label. If every American home replaced one light with an ENERGY STAR light bulb, the reduction in greenhouse gases would be the same as taking 800,000 cars off the road.
Hop on 2 Wheels Instead of 4
Instead of driving, hop on your bike or skateboard or just use your 2 legs to get where you need to go. Not only is it good exercise, but you will save gas and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
Walk to School
Join millions of walkers throughout the world while doing something good for the environment and your health—walk, bike, carpool, or ride school buses to get to school safely.
Use Public Transportation
Can’t get somewhere on foot or with a bike? Try public transportation like a bus, subway, or tram.
Carpooling is Key
Still need a car to get around? Ask your friends and neighbors to carpool with you, particularly if you are driving to school or activities such as sport or band practices. Why drive separately when you are all going to the same place? Also, remember to combine your trips wherever possible.
Turn It OFF!
Make sure to switch off your electronics and lights when they are not in use. Even better, unplug them. Electronics still use a small amount of energy when they are plugged in, even when they are turned off. Plugging electronics into a surge-protector with an on/off switch is an easy way to do this!
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Turn off the computer, video games, or TV and go outdoors! Get out there and collect fall leaves, ride your bike, play sportsâ€¦none of these activities emit greenhouse gases. Stay active and healthy! You’ll be doing your part for the environment and getting exercise at the same time.
Be an H2O Hero
Conserving water saves energy and reduces greenhouse gases. To do your part:
- Print double-sided and write on both sides of paper
- Cut up old blank paper for notes instead of buying new notepads
- Buy recycled paper products such as notebooks, computer paper
Plant a Tree
Trees and plants decrease surface and air temperature, save energy, improve air quality, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Not only do they spruce up your yard or neighborhood, but they also help reduce greenhouse gases!
Put it in the Compost
Start a compost pile using food scraps and yard trimmings. Compost can later be used as a nutrient-rich soil in your flower or vegetable garden. Compost reduces the amount of trash you produce, saves energy, and provides you with free, natural fertilizer for your yard!
Green your Holidays!
Go green this holiday season! Instead of buying a brand new Halloween costume, make your own using clothes you no longer wear. Buy locally grown food for Thanksgiving dinner, and use recycled wrapping paper!
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Get started by calculating your carbon footprint to figure out the amount of greenhouse gases you emit into the atmosphere. This can help you find ways to reduce your contribution to climate change.
Take action to reduce climate change and its impacts——volunteer for a local environmental or conservation organization. You can help create a healthier environment while doing your part for your community. If your community does not already have an environmental or conservation organization, gather your friends and create your own!
Pack a Waste-Free Lunch
Use reusable containers, water bottles, and lunchboxes instead of paper bags and disposable water bottles. Refilling your water bottle at the tap or water fountain uses less plastic, saves energy, and saves you lots of money!
Save Trees—Conserve Paper!
Here are some tips:
Grow a Green Thumb
Save energy and money by starting your own vegetable garden. Ask friends and family to shop for locally grown produce to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.
Reduce, Recycle and Reuse and Make Some Quick Cash Too!
Have a garage sale! Gather your old clothes, toys, books, etc. and set up a yard sale with friends and neighbors. This is a great way to turn your trash into someone else’s treasure while making a few extra bucks along the way. Donate whatever is not sold to a local charity or secondhand store.
Design your own reusable bag to use or give away as a holiday or birthday gift. Buy a canvas bag at a local craft store and add your own flair to it or make your own from scratch. Use this for groceries, at the mall, or at school.
Make Your School Part of the Solution
Recycle at school! Schools all over the United States have recycling programs. Recycling your paper, bottles, cans, and food at school will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Reduce and Recycle
Reduce your trash. Recycle aluminum, paper, and plastics and put your food scraps in the compost. Making products out of recycled materials takes less energy and releases fewer greenhouse gases.
E-Cycle Your Electronics
Do you always have the latest version of electronic gadgets like cell phones and mp3 players? These days, it seems like electronics become old-fashioned in the blink of an eye. Dispose of your old electronics properly or donate them to charity. Browse the web to find local recycling depots or charity organizations that accept old electronics.
Turn it Up, Turn it Down—Use the Rule of 2
Go 2 up, 2 down! Turn up the thermostat by 2 degrees in the summer and down 2 degrees in the winter. About half of the energy used in homes goes to heating and cooling systems. Making this simple adjustment can save hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide each year and save your family money.
Get Involved—Save a Rainforest!
When forests are cut down, animals lose their habitat and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Learn about deforestation and what you can do about it.
Become an Environmental Blogger
Contribute to EPA’s “Students for Action” blog - share your ideas to create a new climate for action.
Get Your School to Take the ENERGY STAR Challenge
Encourage your school to improve energy efficiency by 10% by taking the ENERGY STAR Challenge. U.S. schools spend $6 billion each year on energy—more than on textbooks and computers combined. You and your friends can inspire your principal and teachers to make a big difference.
Revamp Your Java Fix
Meeting friends at the cafe or grabbing breakfast before school? Reduce waste and bring a reusable mug. Many coffee shops offer a discount if you have your own cup. Reducing waste can help reduce climate change impacts.
Borrow Instead of Buy
Borrow a book from the library; rent movies from a mail service or local video store; do a trade-off with friends using old books and movies that you have already seen or no longer want. If you need to purchase something instead of borrowing it, check out thrift stores or websites offering used products.
Buy Products Made from Recycled Materials
Buy products made from recycled materials whenever they are available. There are currently over 4,500 products that are made from recycled materials. Everything from paper to toothbrushes to shoes can be bought recycled!
Become a Climate Ambassador
Join your peers and become a Climate Ambassador. Motivate your friends to use less energy and save the planet!
Teach Others about the Connection between Climate Change and Children’s Health
Climate change is already affecting glacier melting, sea level rise, and many other environmental conditions. Climate change may also affect the health of children. Get the facts and share them with your friends and family.
Do Your Part
Educate your peers about the importance of doing their part to save the environment. Create a skit or presentation to educate your classmates and friends about climate change, greenhouse gases, and how we can reduce our carbon footprint.
See Climate Impact in Your State
As of 2-1-2017 this linked information was removed from the White House website per President Trump's direction. We have retained archived versions of the files available on our site for you. Contact your Congressman and/or Senator to get it restored on government websites and to continue the effort to understand climate change.
The Paris climate agreement is voluntary.
Some of Trump's address points worth pondering:See more of Trump's deceptions here.
A voluntary deal cannot hamstring anyone, nor can it empower anyone.
Learn More about Climate Change