How Extreme Weather Affects The Over-60s
There are all sorts of different considerations that need to be taken into account over the years as we get older, but it may well be that you have not yet thought about how extremes of weather and adverse conditions (both hot and cold) could affect you later on in life.
Winter is, of course, one of the riskiest times for older people, with increased risks of coming down with an illness or slips, trips and falls.
Virus contraction is a real concern for older people, particularly those in care homes because they’re more exposed to cold and flu due to being cooped up inside for longer.
Icy conditions and shorter days, meanwhile, make it more likely that falls will happen. If someone is left lying unable to move, hypothermia then becomes a real concern, while recovery times from an accident are typically longer, as well.
But it’s not just extremes of cold that can prove problematic for older people. Extremes of heat bring with them their own set of issues – something to bear in mind as we make our way into the summer months.
Too much heat isn’t safe for anyone, but if you’re older or have health problems it can be particularly risky. When the mercury rises, it can be difficult for the body to regulate its temperature and older people often do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature.
Heat-related issues include heat syncope (a sudden dizziness that occurs when active in hot weather), cramps, heat edema (swelling in the ankles and feet), heat rash, heat exhaustion (characterised by dizziness, thirst, weakness and nausea) and heat stroke (with symptoms including fainting, confusion, lack of sweating even in the heat and dry, flushed skin).
Last year, a difference of 2,803 was seen in the expected number of deaths in England among those over the age of 65 during the summer heatwaves… and it’s possible that we may see a similar situation this year.
Now, new research is underway to assess how extreme weather affects the health and wellbeing of the over-60s, with this demographic being asked to make their views known.
Carried out by the University of York and Heriot-Watt University, the study is calling for views on how storms, floods and heatwaves have affected the lives of the over-60s, part of a national study on climate change and healthy ageing.
Dr Gary Haq, senior researcher at York University’s Stockholm Environment Institute and co-author of the report, said: “Last year was the sixth warmest year on record in the UK. We experienced storms, flooding and heatwaves, drought and even wildfires.
“We want to hear how such events affect older people, both directly and indirectly, and how we can tackle this issue in the future. This could be by sharing photos, videos or other creative formats about your experiences.”
Anyone over the age of 60 is able to contribute to the research study, which can be found on the Healthy Ageing in a Changing Climate website.
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