On Monday, November 14, we celebrate the National Day for Seniors. Older people are among the groups most exposed to the effects of climate change, according to a new report from the Climate Alliance. The intensification of extreme weather events caused by climate change and the increasing number of elderly people is one of the biggest challenges faced by the healthcare sector in Poland. Urgent action is needed by public authorities.
“The Impact of Climate Change on the Health of Older People” is another report by the Polish Environmental Club, Mazowiecki County and the HEAL Polska Climate Alliance. Previous studies concerned, inter alia, the impact of climate change on children’s health or predictions about how the climate would change in Warsaw. This time, the authors focused on the health of older people, who make up the fastest growing age group in Poland, and who are also particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
More and more elderly
Over the past decade, the 60-65 age group has increased by more than 1.8 million people. Thus, more than one in five residents of Poland is over 60 years old. Older people over the age of 75 make up about 7% of all Polish women and men, and in 10 years this percentage will reach 11% – the report reads. This is an increasingly serious challenge for the health sector, which is already suffering from many problems today.
dangerous heat waves
This summer, with more frequent and longer heat waves, and successive records of high temperatures, has clearly shown that the problem of climate change is increasingly affecting Poland as well. Among its many effects, high temperatures and the resulting heat waves should be considered among the most serious effects on the health of the elderly.
“Heat waves are especially dangerous for the elderly, including because they often have comorbidities and take multiple medications, which reduce the body’s ability to thermoregulate and make it more susceptible to heat stress. Moreover, many older adults suffer from eating disorders. , and therefore they do not drink enough fluids, which leads to dehydration. The occurrence of heat waves contributes to an increase in the mortality rate among the elderly, and a particularly large increase in the number of premature deaths occurs during the first period of extremely high temperatures in a particular season “- points out Professor A. Doctor Hebb. Bolesław Samolin´ski, Head of the Department of Public and Environmental Health and the Department of Environmental Risk Prevention, Allergy and Immunology at the Medical University of Warsaw.
Other extreme weather phenomena
The authors of the report point out that the elderly are highly vulnerable to the effects of other extreme weather events (floods, hurricane winds, violent storms, etc.) since many of them are not and will not be able to guarantee their existence. Your personal safety – deciding whether to evacuate, securing the house or apartment against strong winds, floods or escaping from danger. Another threat to this group is limited access to medical help during and after a severe event. Older adults are also more likely to develop symptoms and psychological trauma after extreme weather events.
Measures to protect the health of the elderly
There is a need for action at all levels, including by public authorities, to reduce health risks from the effects of climate change.
The role of the authorities, both central and local, is to make appropriate systemic changes that will reduce the health risks from climate change. This includes the need to strengthen Poland’s health care system, increase the number of geriatricians, provide medical students with knowledge of the health effects of climate change, include these issues in the national health programme, and laws on public health and the elderly, or education about how we can protect ourselves and your loved ones” – emphasizes Weronika Michalak, Director of HEAL Polska.
On the other hand, there is a need to take steps before the expected effects of climate change, such as: installing air conditioners in rooms, reorganizing the permanent or temporary residence of the elderly, adapting public spaces, including offices, expanding health care and related possibility to monitor living conditions The health status of the elderly.
Protecting the climate, protecting our health
The effects of the climate crisis are already affecting the elderly, also in Poland. People lose their health and die, among other things from extreme heat as well as from hurricane winds, violent storms, and flash floods. In addition, they are exposed to infectious diseases related to vector spread, such as tiger mosquitoes that carry malaria or dengue fever. Adaptation measures will not achieve satisfactory results if the necessary steps are not taken to contain the climate crisis.
“We need to stop the rise in average global temperature, and to do that we need to move away from fossil fuels. The way to do that should be, among other things, improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources. This will ensure us not only independence from Importing fossil fuels from other countries, but also access to cheap energy.This is especially important for the elderly, who are often at risk of energy shortages.At the same time, the Polish government continues to forbid onshore wind energy, and has recently limited the possibility of developing facilities PV for citizens. As a result, we waste invaluable time in making a fair transition, which may not only be economically viable, but also contribute to improving the quality of our health and life. Let’s not waste any more time “- pleads the professor. Zbigniew Karaczun of Warsaw University of Life Sciences, an expert at the Climate Alliance.
The report “The Impact of Climate Change on the Health of Older People” is available at www.koalicjaklimatyczna.org.
Information source: Climate Alliance
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