The Effect Of Climate Change On Seniors
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The Effect Of Climate Change On Seniors

May 5, 2019 | Health | By Lisa Smith

Climate change affects everyone and its effect is greater on seniors who are more vulnerable due to age, illnesses, reduced mobility and alterations in their physiology. Changes in climate can have a far reaching effect on the health of seniors. Read on to find out more and how to manage such situations.

How The Climate Change Affects Seniors

Mortality Rates Rise

Older people have shown to demonstrate higher levels of death in cases of extreme weather. This happens because with age the body becomes fragile and is unable to bear the extremes of the weather. Seniors who suffer from other chronic diseases and take multiple medicines for various causes show higher levels of susceptibility to heat, various vector borne diseases, and pollution – these in extreme rare cases can be fatal. Weather changes can prove to be too extreme for seniors as well. For example: hurricanes inducing fear based heart attacks, stampede during public evacuation limits seniors movement abilities compared to the younger lot.

Increased Susceptibility To Diseases

As the body ages, the immune system becomes weaker and hence makes them prone to contracting diseases. Presence of other issues like cardiovascular illnesses and obesity further aggravate these problems. For example: excessive pollen in the air during certain seasons or polluting smoke staying closer to the ground in winter due to temperature changes, can lead to extreme allergic reactions and various respiratory illnesses in the elderly.

Heat Strokes

In general extreme heat is quite unusual in certain parts of the world, however recent phenomenons suggest extreme weather suddenly making it too hot for elders who may be unable to bear it. In fact a research has found that approximately 618 people are killed in the U.S. annually to heat and the number is greater on tropical areas of the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the average temperatures of the Earth’s surface has been steadily increasing. With age the body’s ability to regulate high temperatures diminishes. Reasons include:

  • Seniors sweat glands could turn to be less efficient delaying sweating till the temperature is really soaring. Sweating is one of the most important heat-regulation methods of the body
  • The elderly store fat in a different way which makes the heat regulation a complicated affair
  • They suffer from some chronic illnesses which makes it difficult for the body to respond to the heat
  • Medication also affects the ability of the body to respond to the heat stimuli

When the heat regulation does not happen the internal body temperature also increases. This makes seniors very susceptible to heat stroke. Heat stroke, in extreme cases, could lead to organ failure and cause more damage.

Extreme Tiredness

Seniors often suffer from extreme tiredness and often this happens in warm weather due to dehydration. Even if the elderly drink enough water, sometimes the problem gets aggravated especially if they are on certain medications. For example: diuretics cause water loss and so when the weather is hot the issue of dehydration gets aggravated thus making the person feel dizzy or faint.

Extreme Confusion

Studies have shown that climate change making the summers hotter and the winters more bitter. In the extreme cold conditions the pressure on the heart is more, it makes the blood thicker and also constricts the arteries. Due to this the heart has to work harder. When this happens the senior becomes more prone to suffering from cognitive disruption which leads to confusion, coordination difficulty, and in extreme cases even a cardiac arrest. A study done by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2014 revealed that 63% of senior mortality owing to weather was due to hypothermia which means an exposure to natural cold.

Severe Disruption Of Lifestyle

Seniors not only have a certain way of living but also become habituated to live in a particular neighborhood. The disaster which occurs due to climatic changes may compel them to shift to safer location. Such a situation is very much frighting, disruptive and hard for anyone and more so for senior people. Extreme conditions of a disaster may require shifting to shelters or camps. Such locations are usually devoid of proper sanitation, food and water they might develop infections and diseases as well.

Tips for Seniors To Protect Themselves

Weather changes are out of control. But seniors can take precautions so that they stay protected and safe. Here are some of the ways:

  • Stay as much indoors in air-conditioned environment when dealing with hot summer conditions
  • Be well protected with a hat, sunscreen, water and sun glasses in summer
  • Pay heed to climate or extreme weather notifications and warnings
  • Wear proper clothes and cover up with multiple layers in winter
  • Have a heater installed in all rooms of the house for the winter months
  • Shift base if the weather warning suggests and return when the alert is gone. You could plan a travel if you still got time to get out of the area
  • Stay vaccinated so that if any new disease strikes due to climatic changes or otherwise then you are safe

Climate change can also cause natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods etc. Seniors should be prepared and take proper measures to safeguard themselves in any such circumstances.

Climate change is the harsh reality that all of us are face. Seniors must know and understand the implications of such changes in their lives. They need to take necessary precautions to protect themselves against them to the best of their abilities.

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