Select Page

Feeling the Heat: The Impact of Extreme Heat on Older Adults

August 11, 2021  · 3 min read

Recent forest fires in California, Greece and Australia; unprecedented flooding in Germany and China; extreme heat waves in Canada and the US Pacific Northwest; and severe droughts in Central Brazil and Asia all point to the fact that we are in the midst of a global climate crisis. In a recent UN Climate Science Report the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the first time released predictions on the likelihood of extreme weather events across a variety of scenarios.

While predictions varied greatly across these scenarios the message was clear, extreme weather events are expected to increase in both frequency and severity. Heat waves have shown a stronger increase in frequency than all other extreme events. Whereas heatwaves would at one time occur twice in a century they are now likely to happen every five to six years with 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. The UN Climate report projects this increase could be surpassed within two decades.

The implications of extreme heat are significant, and the evidence has been strikingly clear that extreme heat disproportionately affects the lives of older people. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) article in June, addressed the most recent heatwave experienced in Western Canada a staggering 570 deaths were ruled “heat related.” More than 3 in 4 deaths (79%) were Canadian seniors.


"I don't think anybody in the province, from the public health officials to the       general public, really understood that we may see over 500 deaths in a week due to the heat. We have never seen something like that in this province. Not that I'm aware of in the last 30 years doing this kind of work. Absolutely unprecedented." -- Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, British Columbia


This unprecedented loss of life has led to increased calls for government action and planning in advance of future heat waves. In New Brunswick, Mr Alphonse Dionne, President of the Senior Citizens Federation has voiced particular concern for older adults who are living in rural and remote communities where there are fewer services and locations to escape the heat.


"I think a lot of people are still not taking this as seriously as they should. The planet is changing and it's changing fast." -- Mr Dionne, President of the Senior Citizens Federation, New Brunswick


Social isolation is also a significant concern and can increase the risk for older adults facing heat waves. According to Dr Lisa Lapointe the majority of older adults who lost their lives during the June heatwave were found alone in their homes, underscoring the urgent need to investigate the endemic nature of ageism while calling for improved policies and funded programs for older people facing social isolation and loneliness.

According to Dr Jennifer Baumbusch, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing current public health messaging and warnings about the heat are falling woefully short of acceptable. The failure to address the significant risks posed to older adults and make available key information on when individuals should be seeking help must be a priority.

While there are no simple solutions to addressing a climate that is radically changing, planning and preparedness must focus on those most at risk, including older adults. Policy considerations include access to public services and locations where air conditioning is available, the provision of air conditioning units in rural and remote settings and in low income settings, ensuring that older adults who live alone are identified and supported, and older adults and those living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease etc. are aware of and have access to reliable and timely guidance regarding how to mitigate risk, is crucial to avoiding further loss of life.

To learn more about climate change and the impact on older adults connect with IFA expert Dr. Lucie Vidovićová.


Featured Experts:
Other Experts:
  • a

    Dr. Stephen E. Judd

    Long-Term Care
    Quality of Care
    Public Policy
    Social Technologies in Ageing
    Frailty
    Dementia
  • a

    Mr. Grant A Donald

    Design guidelines and policy development
    Landscape Design
    Urban Design
    Master Planning
  • a

    Mr. David Doyle

    Smart Housing
    Monitoring
    Social Technologies in Ageing
    Connected Technologies
  • a

    Dr. Alexandre Kalache

    Public Health and Ageing
    Epidemiology of Ageing
    Ageing and Development Issues
    Ageing Advocacy
    Health Promotion
    Active Ageing
  • a

    Prof. Suzanne Martin

    New and Emerging Technologies in Health and Social Care
    Disabilities
    Human Computer Interaction
    Occupational Healthcare
    Community Care Policy and Practice
    Electronic Assistive Technologies
    Ageing in Place
    Supported Housing Options
View More

Feeling the Heat: The Impact of Extreme Heat on Older Adults

August 11, 2021  · 3 min read

Recent forest fires in California, Greece and Australia; unprecedented flooding in Germany and China; extreme heat waves in Canada and the US Pacific Northwest; and severe droughts in Central Brazil and Asia all point to the fact that we are in the midst of a global climate crisis. In a recent UN Climate Science Report the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the first time released predictions on the likelihood of extreme weather events across a variety of scenarios.

While predictions varied greatly across these scenarios the message was clear, extreme weather events are expected to increase in both frequency and severity. Heat waves have shown a stronger increase in frequency than all other extreme events. Whereas heatwaves would at one time occur twice in a century they are now likely to happen every five to six years with 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. The UN Climate report projects this increase could be surpassed within two decades.

The implications of extreme heat are significant, and the evidence has been strikingly clear that extreme heat disproportionately affects the lives of older people. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) article in June, addressed the most recent heatwave experienced in Western Canada a staggering 570 deaths were ruled “heat related.” More than 3 in 4 deaths (79%) were Canadian seniors.


"I don't think anybody in the province, from the public health officials to the       general public, really understood that we may see over 500 deaths in a week due to the heat. We have never seen something like that in this province. Not that I'm aware of in the last 30 years doing this kind of work. Absolutely unprecedented." -- Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, British Columbia


This unprecedented loss of life has led to increased calls for government action and planning in advance of future heat waves. In New Brunswick, Mr Alphonse Dionne, President of the Senior Citizens Federation has voiced particular concern for older adults who are living in rural and remote communities where there are fewer services and locations to escape the heat.


"I think a lot of people are still not taking this as seriously as they should. The planet is changing and it's changing fast." -- Mr Dionne, President of the Senior Citizens Federation, New Brunswick


Social isolation is also a significant concern and can increase the risk for older adults facing heat waves. According to Dr Lisa Lapointe the majority of older adults who lost their lives during the June heatwave were found alone in their homes, underscoring the urgent need to investigate the endemic nature of ageism while calling for improved policies and funded programs for older people facing social isolation and loneliness.

According to Dr Jennifer Baumbusch, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing current public health messaging and warnings about the heat are falling woefully short of acceptable. The failure to address the significant risks posed to older adults and make available key information on when individuals should be seeking help must be a priority.

While there are no simple solutions to addressing a climate that is radically changing, planning and preparedness must focus on those most at risk, including older adults. Policy considerations include access to public services and locations where air conditioning is available, the provision of air conditioning units in rural and remote settings and in low income settings, ensuring that older adults who live alone are identified and supported, and older adults and those living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease etc. are aware of and have access to reliable and timely guidance regarding how to mitigate risk, is crucial to avoiding further loss of life.

To learn more about climate change and the impact on older adults connect with IFA expert Dr. Lucie Vidovićová.


Featured Experts:
Other Experts:
  • a

    Prof. Leocadio Rodriguez Mañas

    Physical exercise in older people
    Frailty
    Diabetes
    Health Systems
  • a

    Dr. Edward Leung

    Long Term Care
    Stroke Care
    Health Promotion
    Geriatric Medicine
    Gerontology
    Healthy Ageing
    Epidemiology
    Osteoporosis
    Incontinence
    Public Policy in Old Age
  • a

    Dr. José-Luis Díaz-Ortega

    Vaccination
    COVID-19
    Measles
    Immunology
    Epidemiology
    Infant Mortality
    Coronavirus
  • a

    Dr. Isabella Aboderin

    Older Adult Rights
    Ageing Policy and Development
    Social Determinants of Health in Old Age
    Health Systems
    Access to Health Care
    Intergenerational Support
    Family Relationships
  • a

    Dr. Brian A. Kaplan

    Healthcare Information Technology
    Healthcare Mangement
    Healthcare
    Cochlear Implants
    Otolaryngology
    Head & Neck Surgery
    Surgery
    Hospitals
    Medical Education
View More

Recent Articles

Share This