Report on "Growing Old in a Changing Climate

Report on “Growing Old in a Changing Climate” I attended the first day of the two-day conference on “ Growing Old in a Changing Climate: Exploring the Interface Between Population Aging and Global Warming”, presented by the Gerontology Research Centre of Simon Fraser University. Our chapter AGM was the following day, which precluded my attendance that day.

The line-up of speakers was impressive, coming from several different countries.

Keynote Address Dr. Carlos Corvalan, Senior Advisor in Risk Assessment and Global Environmental Change, Pan American Health Organization/WHO, gave the opening keynote address, speaking from a global perspective.

Dr. Corvalan emphasized the need for sustainable development which does not create health problems. Some points he raised: – From 2000 to 2050, the population over 65 will increase globally by 273%. – A single environmental problem gives rise to multiple health issues. – Climate change will have an impact on health and also other factors which impact health. – Age-friendly cities need to look at the interrelationship of the environment.

Panel Session 1 – Defining the Issues: Climate Science, Health and Gerontological Perspectives J.M.R. Stone, PHD, Professor Carleton University: Climate Change and the Threat to an Aging Population – The atmosphere is 18 kilometers thick. 2 – Greenhouse gasses keep the climate warmer by 30 degrees c. – The increase in global average temperature is accelerating. – As temperatures increase, the disease vector will change. For example, the incidence of lime disease will increase four to five times its present level in more northern areas. – Projections call for increasing heat waves and decreasing extreme cold days.

Dr. Gloria Gutman, President of the International Network for Elder Abuse and a member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on Health and Ageing: Global Ageing – Key Elements of the “Demographic Transition” – We are living longer because of the decline in deaths from infectious diseases. – Beware of apocalyptic demography. – About half of unattached women over 65 are at or below the poverty level. – Consider gender and cultural factors. – Avoid age blaming as a social problem. – We need to be concerned about intergenerational inequity. – What you are when you are old is a product of what you were when you were young.

George Tokesky, Senior Director of Community Relations at Hospice by the Sea Inc. in South Florida. The Impact of Climate Change on the Most Vulnerable of Older Populations. – In one year, Florida had eight hurricanes and one flood. – Disaster planning requires greater attention to the infirm. 3 – Many of them do not comprehend what is happening and cannot react appropriately to it.

Panel Session 2 – Mitigation and Prevention Strategies: Lessons Learned on the Front Line This session featured Dr. Lisa Brown, Associate Professor in the Department of Aging and Mental Health Disparities at the University of South Florida; Dr. Tom Kosatsky, Medical Director, Environmental Health Services at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control; Michael Weston, Florida; and Kathy Sykes, Senior Advisor for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Aging Initiative.