How Neighborhoods Impact Older Adults’ Resiliency to Climate Change

New research seeks to learn how homes, neighborhoods, and communities affect how older residents are affected by climate change.

Read Time: 1 minute

December 7, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


In a new paper published in Housing Policy Debate, Jennifer Molinsky and Ann Forsyth assess the influence of environmental factors on older adults’ vulnerability to climate change. This research is important because older adults are at “greater immediate risk” due to the higher likelihood of having mobility limitations, respiratory illnesses, or other risk factors, the authors explain.

The paper focuses on communities, neighborhoods, and homes as three nested but distinct spaces where climate risks can be mitigated or exacerbated in various ways. “For example, while the risk of severe storms, floods, or extreme heat differ by region, they can also vary locally by neighborhood, block, or house. A low-income renter may have little control over temperature or air quality in their building, creating greater exposure and sensitivity to heat, cold, or smoke entering the home through poorly sealed windows.” Meanwhile, residents of high-rise buildings may become stranded during an extreme weather event if elevators stop working. At the community scale, rural areas with few health facilities may predispose residents to worse health outcomes.

The authors note that more research is needed into the intersection of aging, climate change, and homes and neighborhoods, and the economic and demographic differences that impact how and where older people live.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 in Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

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