Characterising vulnerability of the elderly to climate change in the Nordic region
Timothy R. Carter, Stefan Fronzek, Aino Inkinen, Ismo Lahtinen, Matti Lahtinen, Hanna Mela, Karen O’Brien, Lynn D. Rosentrater, Reija Ruuhela, Louise Simonsson and Emma Terama have investigated the potential impacts of climate change on elderly people in the Nordic region.
Elderly people are known to be more vulnerable than the general population to a range of weather-related hazards such as heat waves, icy conditions and cold periods. In the Nordic region, some of these hazards are projected to change their frequency and intensity in the future, while at the same time strong increases are projected in the proportion of elderly in the population. This paper reports results from three projects studying the potential impacts of climate change on elderly people in the Nordic region. An interactive web-based tool has been developed for mapping and combining indicators of climate change vulnerability of the elderly, by municipality, across three Nordic countries: Finland, Norway and Sweden. The tool can also be used for projecting temperature-related mortality in Finland under different projections of future climate. The approach to vulnerability mapping differs from most previous studies in which researchers selected the indicators to combine into an index. Here, while researchers compile data on indicators that can be accessed in the mapping tool, the onus is on the users of the tool to decide which indicators are of interest and whether to map them individually or as combined indices. Stakeholders with responsibility for the care and welfare of the elderly were engaged in the study through interviews and a workshop. They affirmed the usefulness of the prototype mapping tool for raising awareness about climate change as a potential risk factor for the elderly and offered suggestions on potential refinements, which have now been implemented. These included adding background information on possible adaptation measures for ameliorating the impacts of extreme temperatures, and improved representation of uncertainties in projections of future exposure and adaptive capacity.