How climate change affects the elderly in France

Term Paper, 2015
10 Pages, Grade: 77.3


Climatic changes are caused by substantial alterations of weather conditions in the global world. These changes are examined by measuring the significant changes observed in the distribution pattern of the weather such as precipitation effects and weather temperatures that appear for over several years. Global warming is the core factor that causes changes in the climate due to the increase in emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. France has experienced climatic changes such as the heat wave whereby the weather in France becomes unusually warmer which eventually causes the death of the elderly individuals (Åström, Bertil, & Joacim, 2011). Firstly, studies state that the adverse climatic changes are caused by certain variables such as societal elements and contextual factors that are closely connected to impact hazardous weather conditions.

As such, the researchers who focus on the study of change in population make assumptions on the continual increase in expectancy of human life in the coming decades. The prediction is based on two basic assumptions which are the advancements of technology in the field of medicine will continue to occur, and the environment that supports the global population will not change. In accordance with the scientific community agreement, it states that the human operations significantly contributes to the climatic changes. Therefore, the projections predict that by the year of 2100 there will be high levels of air degradation, poor quality of water, and the temperatures are expected to rise to about 11.5F (Åström, Bertil, & Joacim, 2011). Several scientific types of research state that there is an urgent need to change these trajectories of climate because if otherwise, the global population will experience significant environmental difficulties. In history, it was observed that the population segment that accounted for most of the death were the children and the aging people, especially during the environmental stress.

The adverse climatic changes in France pose a fatal threat to the elderly. Statistics conducted predicts that in the year 2090, the population of the elderly will be at a higher risk of the heat wave exposure of about ten times than it is now. Further reports investigate the vulnerability of the global population in relation to the adverse weather conditions such as changes in the climate progressions particularly to the survival of the elderly. Moreover, the heat wave findings suggest that by the year of 2090, there will occur frequent flood events that will continually increase by an approximate of 1B each year while the drought occurrences will also continually increase by an approximate of six hundred million each year (Viboud, et al. 2004). Statistical studies that the occurrence of these events are calculated by the frequency in which the extreme weather conditions occur multiplied by the scope of vulnerable people.

These findings of how the adverse climatic changes affect the elderly in France, and future predictions were estimated by taking into account the growth of population in France and future assumptions based on the change in the demography as well as the projections of the climatic change. In accordance to research conducted, it indicates that there will be substantial effects on the level of vulnerability the population will be as a result of impacts of changes in the climate. This aspect will mainly be caused by the shifts in the age demographics and the residence of the population. Some articles suggest that some of the population are living in the wrong geographical locations; therefore, there are high chances that the population will frequently experience adverse climatic changes. Furthermore, an increase in population can result in changes in the climate thus causing the occurrence of most hazards. It is projected that the elderly population is expected to rise in the next years increasingly. This is a major issue considering that the projections based on the change in climate depict that the elderly are the most vulnerable segment of the population to the impacts of the climate (Bambrick, et al. 2011). For example, in the year of 2003 in September, France was hit by a heat wave that claimed an approximate of fifteen thousand people and most of the individuals were the elderly. The older adults living in France are at a higher risk if they are living alone because they will not be able to relocate in cooler regions during the occurrence of heat waves more so, the elderly that are suffering from mental illness and dementia are not at a position of caring for themselves in the required manner.

The climatic changes in France adversely affect the health of the elderly. The vulnerabilities brought about by the heat stress result to the death of many of the elderly, isolation, and a fatal effect on the outdoor employees. Therefore, the most affected regions by the heat wave in France are the cities. The heat wave that hit France in 2003 was catastrophic that affected the health of most people. The heat wave with dramatic climatic changes such as the rise in temperatures causes the vulnerability in the socioeconomic sector, and the social factors led to the occurrence of hazards that killed a massive number of population in France (Luber, & McGeehin, 2008). Mortality of the aging population was mostly caused by aspects of the heat wave such as dehydration, heat stroke, and hypothermia. Additionally, these climatic changes brought about pre-existing illnesses, isolation, medication, poverty, urban residential and pollution of the Ozone layer.

From the experiences observed in France ascertains that the heat wave caused by the climatic changes are fatal to the living organisms and the most affected regions are the post-industrial communities. Thus the experience of 2003 exhibits that the segment of the population that is most vulnerable are the elderly, chronically sick, and the isolated population. The health calamity that befalls France in 2003 was unforeseen, and it was detected later than the appropriate time when the calamity should have been detected. Further, there was the lack of enough professionals in the public health sector to address the issue because there was a poor exchange of data between numbers of public health institutions because they did not have a clear definition of responsibilities in the area. The climatic condition caused commotions due to the overwhelming influx of patients, the cemeteries did not have the space to accommodate the influx of bodies, there was manpower crisis in the health institutions, and there was a lot of old persons that were living alone without the care of support system and did not have the guidelines on how to deal with the massive heat.

As a result of the heat wave, it called for numerous of processes and instruments to be mobilized such as providing care to the aging individuals at home, establishing communication with the people, and establishing the response and capability factors in nursing homes. Research indicates that the old and children contribute to the high mortality rate; this is because this population segment is more vulnerable to factors that cause death (Luber & McGeehin, 2008). Today’s world population is accumulated by the aging persons especially in developed nations such as France. This is to mean, that the technology discovered by humans and cultural traditions are significantly developing sub-population that is increasingly growing and that is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of changes in the climate.

Having understood the demographic aspects and the vulnerable segment of the population, it is of importance to understand the complex relationship between the elderly and the environment in relation to climatic changes. The elderly are mostly affected by the adverse climatic conditions because they are sensitive to the environmental changes and other exposures such as the toxins and infectious agents (Luber, & McGeehin, 2008). The reason as to why the elderly acquire a high level of sensitivity is because they have low metabolism, do not have adequate capacity of reserve in their psychological nature, and they do not respond to metabolism at a fast rate. In addition, this population segment does not have a higher morbidity rate that the younger individuals. Therefore, due to these cumulative effects of their vulnerability to diseases makes some organs to be prone to certain levels of stress.

Medical reports indicate that the old people’s nervous system is sensitive to the high temperatures and therefore they are at a high risk of suffering from memory loss, delirium, and a lot of confusion. During the period of high heat levels the cardiovascular organ has to function more than usual and this may increase the chances of suffering from myocardial infraction. In other times, the elderly may have chronic diseases that require high consumption of water, however, due to the high levels of heat they may suffer from dehydration which may result to renal failure. Therefore, these discussed factors how the adverse climatic conditions affect the elderly especially those suffering from certain chronic diseases.

Another aspect of climatic change that affects the elderly is the ambient air temps. When a high level of ambient temperature of the air is combined with humidity, it becomes corrosive to the elderly as it diminishes their ability to maintain body thermal homeostasis which is fatal in allowing the body temperatures to worsen to the point that it can cause death. The process of sweating is vital as it acts as a compensatory mechanism that allows the body to manage the excessive internal heat, however, due to the existence of high precipitation of the humid that evaporates is substituted with the sweat (Poumadere, Mays, Le Mer, & Blong, 2005). Thus, in the elderly become unable to lower their body temperatures thus causing high levels of dehydration in the elderly bodies.

The Air Quality Index warns the elderly category of the populating of the risks involved with ambient air temperatures. Under normal air conditions, the old people experience adverse effects of health when the air is minimally polluted. Due to the air pollutions, it has been reported that there is increased number of hospitalized people. In addition, areas that are prone to adverse climatic changes are the urban areas such as smog; it is reported that air pollution is at an increasing level combined with the high levels of temperatures which pose the elderly at a health risk. In addition, the cities in France engage in technological activities that have created a distinctive environment to humans that isolate them from the natural environment. Due to innovation and inventive elements, they have significantly contributed to the growth of population and an increase in life expectancy (Poumadere, Mays, Le Mer, & Blong, 2005). However, these technological advancements have adverse negative effects on the environment in the cities which result in the creation of health risks especially to the elderly.

Therefore, population concentration in the urban cities has significantly affected the health of many people. For instance, the heat wave that hit Paris in 2003, by use of images from the satellite it portrayed that there was temperature gap of 1 degree Celsius to 2 degree Celsius between the urban areas in France and its rural areas at night and during daylight respectively. Despite the small difference in temperature, the elderly that dwelled in the urban cities experienced higher death risk than those who resided in the rural areas (McMichael, Woodruff, & Hales, 2006). The mortality disparity was as a result of trapping of heat in the buildings’ cement and concretes that slowly cooled down at night and the green areas in the suburbs. Therefore, due to the discussed factors, the city of France experienced the most horrible natural disaster in relation to the country's past predicaments and research studies report that such natural calamities will continue to occur in the future

In essence, the changes in climate pose significant risks to health especially for the aging population that is poor, isolated and suffering from chronic diseases. Due to human activities, such as pollution of sources of energy and development practices that are unsustainable they potentially contribute to the global warming. Studies indicate that the health of the elderly is expected to deteriorate especially to those acquiring pre-existing health conditions. The effects of changes in climate are not evenly distributed in that, some groups within the society are prone to vulnerabilities than others. The incapability of the elderly to independently deal with effects of climatic changes exposes them to substantial amounts of threats.

As such, most of the old people living in France have characteristics are common in most of them. During the 20th century, the old people have been able to persevere hardships; therefore, they are well-informed of their mortality rate and the concept of dying. These old people survive at the mercies of the care support system because their immune system is increasingly deteriorating. The emission of carbon dioxide from the energy industries of household usage is higher by 42% than the country’s average (McMichael, Woodruff, & Hales, 2006). This is because there is a small amount occupant in the households and there is the tendency that the elderly prefer to stay indoors because of the need to warm themselves. For instance, looking at the normal life of a person as he/she is growing old, it is observed that aging individuals reduce carbon dioxide emission from the transportation system thus reflecting that their physical mobility is reduced in turn they depend on the public transportation system (Poumadere, Mays, Le Mer, & Blong, 2005). Statistics states that the elderly who are age seventy years and above take ten percent of the trips by use of bus while sixty percent of them travel by use of a car, this is in comparison to the 4% and 75% respectively of the elderly aged 50-60. Therefore, this is to say that the elders are not dependent on cars. From the observations made the elderly seem to have the highest level of climatic impact in comparison to the younger people; this is because the intensive emissions of carbon dioxide gas are mostly derived from the home heating which represents a forty percent of the old-aged population carbon footprint.

The vulnerability of the elderly to changes in climate vary from their health, finance capabilities, and their lifestyle. Medically, it is proven that when people grow old, their body immune and muscles weaken thus causing their physical strength to decline, acquire disability issues, have no source of income, and mourn of past predicaments. The effects of climatic change in France such as the rise in temperatures, poor public transportation system, and damages caused by the storm are as a consequence of the extreme weather occurrences that potentially poses a threat to the survival of the aging individuals in France. Due to the occurrence of climatic changes, it has negatively disrupted the manner in which the people live, their daily routine, and eventually, these factors force the old persons to mobilize their resources so as to sustain their well-being.

In addition, climatic changes increase the sensitivity nature of the elderly thus causing panic. The level of sensitivity is highly determined by the occurrence of a pre-existing illness, genetic make-up, their geographic area of residence, income levels, and the support system, quality of infrastructure of the public health, and access to important data on their health (Le Tertre, et al. 2011). The ability to cope with these climatic changes is usually dependent on the ability to access potential services, the social injustices, inequalities, and disempowerment (Haines, Kovats, Campbell-Lendrum, & Corvalán, 2006). In addition, the old people’s survival factor is also affected by their lifestyles, strong social and relative ties, their coping capabilities, and their savings.


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How climate change affects the elderly in France
Kenyatta University
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Doctor Alfhonce Michael (Author), 2015, How climate change affects the elderly in France, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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