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Professor Nina Kohn in The Hill: Older Adults Are Feeling the Heat, Literally

Posted on Monday 8/31/2020
Nina Kohn

(The Hill | Aug. 29, 2020) This August, California’s Death Valley National Park recorded what experts say may be the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth. Yet, it isn’t just deserts that are warming up. Across the country — including in northern states — communities are experiencing more hot days. 

Changing temperatures, like other forms of climate change, may seem universal — but their impacts are far from it. One group particularly susceptible to its effects are older adults. In part, this is because older bodies are less resilient to heat. Older adults are more likely than younger people to experience heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat-induced cardiovascular events such as strokes. Research suggests that strings of days with elevated temperatures — a key result of climate change — place particular stress on older adults’ cardiovascular systems, leading to increased risk of early death. 

But older adults face special risk from rising temperatures not simply because they are physically more vulnerable to heat. They also are vulnerable because their homes are often less well equipped to deal with heat extremes. Many have retired to sunbelt communities where temperatures are now spiking. Those who have remained in the homes they lived in when younger may find their residences are energy-inefficient — making the cost of cooling them unaffordable ...

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