"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

A growing global population and rising temperatures mean hundreds of thousands of individuals are in danger.

A deadly heat wave It gripped large areas of Asia for weeks in April and May 2024.. As temperatures in India exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 Celsius) on May 7, campaigning politicians, local news announcers and voters waited in long lines. Out of the oppressive heat.

From the north of Japan to the south of the Philippines, the unrelenting heat destroyed every day life. There were students and teachers in Cambodia. Sent home from school Because their hand-held fans offer little protection against the stifling heat and humidity of their poorly ventilated classrooms. Farmers in Thailand He saw his crops wither and mourned the lack of cattle that died under the punishing sun. Hundreds of people died. from the warmth.

In recent years, a lot of the planet has been affected by severe effects of maximum heat.

Every week-long heat wave within the southwestern United States in 2023 is “Hell on earthIn Phoenix, where temperatures were affected. 110 F (43.3 C) or higher for 31 consecutive days. At the identical time, Europe saw unprecedented high temperatures Hundreds killed and involved in devastating forest fires. in Greece.

Summer 2023 was the most well liked summer on record globally. For people working outside, like this fruit seller in Texas, shade was often a relief from the warmth.
AP Photo/David J. Philip

Regardless of where or when a heat wave occurs, one pattern is constant: Older adults are the most likely to die. from extreme heat, and the crisis will worsen in the approaching years.

We read Climate Change And The population is aging. Our research documents two global trends that together portend a terrifying future.

Older adults will probably be more vulnerable to heat stress.

First, the temperature is warmer than ever. A period of nine years Average temperatures in 2015 and 2023 were the best since global records began in 1880.

Second, the population world wide is aging. By 2050, the number of individuals aged 60 and over will double. About 2.1 billionThat is 21% of the world population. The ratio is 13% today.

These combined forces mean that an ever-increasing variety of frail older adults will experience heat stress.

An old man driving an electric rickshaw with two passengers and sitting in direct sunlight in traffic on a hot summer day.  On his head was a bandanna for shade.
On May 3, 2024, rickshaw drivers in New Delhi can barely escape the sun.
Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

To understand the risks involved, we generated and combined population estimates for various age groups Climate change scenarios For a long time to return. Our evaluation shows that by 2050, greater than 23% of the world's population aged 69 or older will probably be living in regions where peak temperatures routinely exceed 99.5°F (37.5°C). , in comparison with only 14% today.

This signifies that as many as 250 million additional elderly people will probably be exposed to dangerously high temperatures.

Data mapping shows that the majority of those elderly people live in low- and middle-income countries with inadequate services and limited access to electricity, cooling appliances and protected water.

In historically cold regions of the Global North, including North America and Europe, rising temperatures will increase the warmth exposure of older adults. In historically warm regions of the Global South, equivalent to Asia, Africa and South America, population growth and increased longevity mean that rapidly increasing numbers of older adults will probably be exposed to intensifying heat-related risks.

Policymakers, communities, families, and older residents themselves need to grasp these risks and be prepared for the special risks of heatstroke for older adults.

Extreme heat is particularly harmful to older adults.

High temperatures are repressive for all, but for In older adults they can be fatal.

Extreme heat can worsen common age-related health conditions equivalent to heart, lung and kidney disease. Causes delirium. Old people Don't sweat too much As younger individuals, it becomes harder for his or her bodies to chill down when the temperature rises. These problems are generally worsening. Prescription drugsequivalent to anticholinergics, which further reduce sweating.

Spending time outdoors in hot, humid weather may cause dehydration, with unintended effects that exacerbate the issue. Prescription drugs equivalent to diuretics and beta blockers. Dehydration could make older adults weak and dizzy, increasing their risk of falls and injury. These risks are even worse in inaccessible areas. Safe and affordable drinking water.

An elderly woman holds a glass of water next to a list of safety tips for older adults experiencing heat waves.
Tips to forestall heat illness can save lives, but they might be difficult to follow even in wealthy countries.
Ohio Department of Aging

Poor Air quality Causes respiration difficulties, especially for individuals who have already got lung problems equivalent to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

For older adults with physical health problems, equivalent to temperature As low as 80 F (26.7 C) may pose a big risk. And when humidity is as high as 90%, even 78 F (25.6 C) might be dangerous for older adults.

Night heat Especially harmful to older adults whose homes lack air con or who Can't stand it To make your air conditioner run longer. It is the perfect temperature for older adults to sleep comfortably. Between 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C).And because the temperature rises, the standard of sleep decreases. A restless night of sleep May make an older adult more depressed and confused during their waking hours. Medicines can do it too lose their effectiveness. If stored above 77 F (25 C).

Older adults will also be emotionally affected while experiencing hot flashes.

Being stuck indoors when the temperature is unbearable can bore older adults, Sad and isolated. People with Cognitive impairments May underestimate the hazards of maximum heat or fail to grasp heat advisories.

Those who've Physical mobility limitations or lack of access to transportation The public cannot easily travel to cooling centers – if there are any around – or find relief in them. The surrounding “green and blue areas“Like parks and lakes.

These risks are particularly serious. Low and middle income countriesWhere older adults usually tend to live in substandard housing and lack access to high-quality health care or ways to chill off in the warmth. This is how we discuss it.”Systemic cooling poverty

What might be done?

Policymakers can work to scale back greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and factories, which drive global warming, and develop effective plans to guard older people from heatstroke. are Older adults and their caregivers can even take. Adoption measures.

But aid efforts must be tailored to every region and population.

Rich municipalities can Increase in public investment In the start Warning systems and ride services to cooling centers and hospitals. They can use geographic information systems to discover neighborhoods with high concentrations of older adults and expand the facility grid to administer increased demand for air con.

A woman and young girl sit in the shade outside a small building with slatted doors and an unusual roof.
In poor countries, many homes and businesses lack ways for people to chill off in the warmth.
Sudipta Das/Noor Photo via Getty Images

In areas with substandard housing, limited access to scrub water and few public assistance equivalent to cooling centers, Huge changes are obligatory. Improving health care, water and shelter provision, and reducing air pollution that may reduce health problems during heat waves require significant changes and investments which are too expensive to afford. Countries struggle with

The World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization have warned. This decade will be important. To prepare communities to address the specter of rising temperatures and an aging population. In all regions, researchers, practitioners and policy makers can save lives by heeding their calling.