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The Devastating Consequences of Climate Change for Older Adults

September 25, 2019  · 2 min read


It is an undeniable fact that the world’s population is ageing. According to a report from the World Health Organization, between 2015 and 2050, the percentage of the global population that is over 60 years will almost double. Another undeniable fact is climate change, which has been recently gaining public awareness at an exponential rate. This awareness increased dramatically since the release of the IPCC report in October 2018, which stressed the need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030. 

How do the two trends of population ageing and climate change intersect? In a recent Toronto Star opinion piece, Dr. John Muscedere, scientific director of the Canadian Frailty Network, argues that older adults or individuals experiencing vulnerability or frailty, face greater risk from climate change. Examples of this risk include isolation and mobility impediment due to more intense storms and related power outages, ill-health impacts and death from heat waves and floods, and emergent or exacerbated respiratory and cardiac issues due to pollution and weather events. According to Dr. Muscedere, “these are not worst-case scenarios. These events and their consequences are happening now.”

In addition to older adults, climate change disproportionately impacts other groups including people in the global south, communities of colour and poorer communities. This is illustrated in articles from the Independent, the Atlantic and through the work by the ENRICH Project in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is critical that in this period of rapid demographic and climatic change, we protect older adults, particularly those in these communities that face the most harm from climate change.  

IFA expert Prof. Sarah Harper is an expert in global population ageing, longevity, public policy and global migration. Prof. Harper also leads the Complex Environmental Population Interactions Programme which addresses complex interactions between demographic and environmental change. Contact Dr. Harper for an expert opinion on these interactions and consider attending the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing where the theme Addressing Inequalities will showcase examples of the impact of climate change on older adults experiencing migration and displacement.

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