9th Mar 2019
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How to save older Australians from killer heatwaves
How to save older Australians from killer heatwaves

Claudia Baldwin, University of the Sunshine Coast; Jason Byrne, University of Tasmania, and Tony Matthews, Griffith University

How do we save ageing Australians from the heat? Greening our cities is a good start
Heatwaves have killed more Australians than road accidents, fires, floods and all other natural disasters combined. Although recent research shows extreme cold is a worry in some parts of Australia, our hottest summer on record points to more heat-related deaths to come. The record heatwaves have highlighted the damaging effects of heat stress. Understandably, it’s becoming a major public health challenge.

The risk of extreme heat events and the adverse impacts on older people has been extensively discussed in research. Remarkably, very little attention has been paid to the role of urban greenery in reducing heat stress for seniors.

Older people are particularly at risk of heat stress. Pre-existing medical conditions and limited mobility increase their vulnerability. Deaths of older people increase during extreme heat events.

The physical features of urban areas shape the capacity of older adults to engage in many activities when it’s hot. These include vegetation volume and coverage, thermal design, and the extent of shading in public areas and walkways. Increasing urban greenery may offer a way to improve older people’s comfort and social experience.

Ageing adds urgency to greening
It is expected 20 per cent of the global population will be older than 60 by 2050. The figure for Australia is even higher, at 23 per cent. This means that by 2050 around one in four Australians will be more vulnerable to extreme heat.

Climate change may make the problem worse by fuelling even more extreme heat events.

Planning our urban centres to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population is a matter of urgency. Urban greening to reduce their vulnerability to heat stress should be central to this agenda. It can also improve people’s quality of life, reduce social isolation and loneliness, and ease the burden on health systems.

An important task is matching the design of communities with the needs of an ageing population. Where older adults live and the quality of their local areas strongly influence their lived experiences. Yet recent research found the experiences of seniors were often not accounted for in research on neighbourhood design.

What about aged care?
People face choices about where they live as they age. The common choices are to “age in place” or to move into aged care.

Ageing in place includes living in one’s own home or co-habiting with relatives or friends. Around 90% of Australian seniors choose this option, with the remainder opting for aged-care facilities.

If one in ten Australian seniors live in aged-care facilities, it is clear these should be designed to minimise heat stress. This isn’t just good for residents; it may also benefit operators by lowering health-care and electricity costs.

While these facilities are purpose-built for older people, many in Australia were built well over a decade ago, when heat stress was not such a large concern. Many more facilities are being built now and will be into the future. Yet it is uncertain whether they are being actively designed to reduce the impacts of heat.

What has our research found?
We recently conducted a focus group to investigate this issue. Participants were senior managers from four large corporate providers of aged care in Australia. We investigated if and how providers try to minimise heat stress through design. We also sought to understand the rationales used to support these design approaches.

Several participants reported on refurbishments that they expect will have cooling effects. Cited design approaches included green roofs and walls, as well as sensory gardens. Other expected benefits included reducing anxiety and improving the mental health of residents.

The fact that single design interventions could produce multiple benefits improved the potential for corporate buy-in. Participants expected that increasing green space and green cover would give their facilities a competitive advantage by attracting more clients and providing a better working environment for staff.

Participants also reported on challenges of including greening in their projects. For example, the benefits of trees were weighed against concerns about roots disrupting footpaths and becoming trip hazards. Species selection was another concern, with fears that inappropriate plants could die and undermine support for greening programs.

Our research suggests that more can be done to make cities hospitable for older people, especially during extreme heat. Urban greening is a start. Encouraging aged-care providers to adopt green infrastructure will have benefits. But we should also consider reforms to planning systems and urban design to better protect older people who choose to age in place.

Claudia Baldwin, Associate Professor, Urban Design and Town Planning, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast; Jason Byrne, Professor of Human Geography and Planning, University of Tasmania, and Tony Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Urban and Environmental Planning, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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    COMMENTS

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    TREBOR
    10th Mar 2019
    10:22am
    Install an excess to requirements solar power system on roofs... tha's my plan in the next house... philosophically speaking, is this a house or a home? Well - a home is where you park your heart, and a house is where you park your ass, as Shrek would say... (Don-Kay!)

    Serious help with air con would help and lower power bills (dream on)... actually had someone complain that old people flocked to Kazalis in Rockie or wherever for the cheap meals, the cheap beer and the pokies - I'd say they flock there for the air con...

    Up there, Kazalis???

    Anyway - just looking a a new 'home' with an existing 1.2 system on it and looking at installing a 6.6 as well plus a 1 KW windie, few batteries for evenings ... a bit of help for the indigent older person for installation costs would help. Maye when I win Powerball I can set up a system to help ...

    I'm a bushie and look at yards where I can install tanks and bores, too... would love to buy a backhoe with drilling gear so I could install bores for people on the cheap ....buggar those rates.. death and rates are inevitable... how do I secede from council?
    TREBOR
    10th Mar 2019
    11:07am
    Oh, and an excess to requirements air con system - and duct it throughout the house using solar powered fans - where they say a five Kw will do, I'm looking at an eight and ducting... whole house cool or warm... perfect for the oldies...
    TREBOR
    10th Mar 2019
    11:07am
    .. condensor unit in the shade so it doesn't work so hard, too....
    TREBOR
    10th Mar 2019
    11:08am
    Let's split this joint, Igor - we're playing to a dead audience...
    cat
    10th Mar 2019
    11:10am
    I suffer from hyper hyroidism and my head pours sweat if I get hot so if its hot weather, particularly humid hot I stay home with the air conditioner on and wear the electricity bill. I'm 70 and I don't remember being like this when I was younger. These days 36 up is stay in weather!
    KSS
    10th Mar 2019
    2:18pm
    A sign of ageing I'm afraid. You cope better the younger you are (except very young children who like old people cannot regulate their body temperature).
    musicveg
    10th Mar 2019
    9:16pm
    A sign of a health problem KSS, it is the thyroid not functioning properly and the liver not functioning properly, cat I would suggest you read a book called "Thyroid Healing" by Anthony William, see if your local library has it or get them to order it if you don't wish to buy it.
    cat
    10th Mar 2019
    11:12am
    you are funny Trebor! I live in a trust house on a single pension so no fancy stuff for me!
    Rosret
    10th Mar 2019
    11:12am
    A lot of old people I visit have an air conditioner but do not switch them on. They either don't like the noise or they don't like the bill.
    I can't handle the temperatures they happily sit in. Maybe their lack of mobility makes them less heated. Meanwhile I am finding an excuse to go outside where its usually cooler!

    For an article that is trying to make the old people an excuse to plant trees - it takes a long time to grow a tree! So maybe target the people who are cutting them down! We are already on your side.
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    9:58pm
    I have nerve pain sensitivity and I am near crippled walking into a supermarket after perspiring in the heat outside. The sudden chill locks up my muscles.

    My aircon at home has to be baffled with japanese room dividers so I am not getting a direct draft.

    Opioid pain medication causes extra sweating. This will increase the chill from the aircon.

    The air from an air conditioner is rarely a constant temperature. There are sudden drops in the temperature when the thermostat detects that the room is getting too hot, thats when it goes too far and the output gets too cold.
    Rosret
    10th Mar 2019
    11:19am
    Have to love YLC - I now have air con ads all over my page.
    I have an air conditioner - thanks - can you read that too??
    Tom Tank
    10th Mar 2019
    12:07pm
    The big trick with air-con is to be cool but not cold. On our really hot days we have run our air-con set to 27deg along with a separate fan circulating the air in the room.
    This is really effective and not outrageously expensive on power bills.
    We usually turn the air-con off overnight but keep the fan running if needed.
    So many place we go into are actually too chilly which is really expensive.

    It is really quite remarkable that in cold climates the houses are over heated in winter and in hot climates that houses are over cooled in summer.
    Sen.Cit.90
    10th Mar 2019
    12:28pm
    Too true Tom Tank;
    I start my aircon at 24 deg. then when cooled down set it at 26 deg. Next time I'll try 27 deg, After all, 26 deg outside is a beautiful summer temperature.
    Sen.Cit.90
    10th Mar 2019
    12:30pm
    N.B. Note my Sen.Cit.89 is now Sen.Cit.90 I hit the big 90 last Sunday 03
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    10:04pm
    Not having insulation in the ceiling can make it very hard to have comfortable air conditioning. Its like sitting in a cold draft with radiant heat from the ceiling causing perspiration. Like a cold sweat.
    musicveg
    10th Mar 2019
    10:06pm
    Yes Charlie, I have been in the same rental for over 10 years and insulation has never been checked, so not sure if it is even up to code.
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    10:28pm
    If there's a man hole you can see if there's any at all... They are supposed to have reflective foil under the iron or tile, This may have a little fibre glass with it.. Then some insulation batts resting on the inside of the ceiling .

    Depends when the place was built. I have neither, just a man hole to see how bad it is.
    Tom Tank
    10th Mar 2019
    12:07pm
    The big trick with air-con is to be cool but not cold. On our really hot days we have run our air-con set to 27deg along with a separate fan circulating the air in the room.
    This is really effective and not outrageously expensive on power bills.
    We usually turn the air-con off overnight but keep the fan running if needed.
    So many place we go into are actually too chilly which is really expensive.

    It is really quite remarkable that in cold climates the houses are over heated in winter and in hot climates that houses are over cooled in summer.
    neil
    10th Mar 2019
    1:30pm
    Come and live in Tasmania.

    Neil.
    Triss
    10th Mar 2019
    3:44pm
    Maybe not yet, Neil. I remember being in Tasmania for Christmas a couple of years ago and having to buy a jacket I was so cold.
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    10:30pm
    I went to Tasmania once. To St Helens to see a bloke called Neil. Must be a popular name there.
    neil
    10th Mar 2019
    1:30pm
    Come and live in Tasmania.

    Neil.
    Cheezil61
    10th Mar 2019
    1:43pm
    Love the ideas in comments. Who can afford any of this stuff tho seriously?
    floss
    10th Mar 2019
    1:56pm
    This is only the start some people can not afford to turn on the air conditioner due to the stupid mistakes made by our Federal and state government in N,S.W.Privatise and perish is turning out to be true.Who was the fool that that gave away all our natural gas ?
    Bes
    10th Mar 2019
    2:26pm
    Heatwaves have killed more Australians than road accidents, fires, floods and all other natural disasters combined. WOW! Where do these figures come from please?
    Road Deaths average 1000 per year alone.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disasters_in_Australia_by_death_toll

    We live in a poor country today, where manufacturing is on a steep decline and people simply cannot afford their power costs!
    Here in the 21st Century things that we took for granted 5 years ago, a large number of us cannot afford to keep Cool or Warm!

    Our prices have risen dramatically as Australia struggles to reach a complete Renewable Energy power system.
    If there is a Transition that works both for domestic use (the problems being rented homes and high-rise apartments) and also, can maintain continuous and reliable power for Industry then obviously there is no argument.

    But at present Australian state governments are going their own way and it is becoming un-affordable.
    With high hopes of political gain some state governments believed that with a few panels and wind turbines that they could switch one OFF and the other ON!
    A far stretch from reality.
    The word TRANSITION seems to have been forgotten!

    It takes time and is impossible to switch one OFF and Renewables ON without everything being in place, tried and tested FIRST!
    South Australia has spent a fortune just trying to keep on an even keel after a rushed attempt at using the one OFF and one ON formula.
    Their government changed thereafter BUT there is still a price to be paid!

    My personal solar panels cost $13,000 back in the day and now the same costs approximately $3-4000 which is good.
    My neighbours either side without solar…. subsidise me as taxpayers!
    But my son lives in a city apartment and there is simply no room for panels to serve everyone in the block.
    The same for rentals who are at the mercy of the landlord.

    In 1950 coal supplied half of Japan's energy needs, hydroelectricity one-third, and oil the rest.
    By 2001 the contribution of oil had increased to 50.2% of the total, with rises also in the use of nuclear power and natural gas.
    Following a nuclear disaster, Japan now depends heavily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demand ...

    China:
    WHEN IT COMES to energy, no country generates such bittersweet superlatives as China.
    It is the world’s largest consumer of coal and Australia’s largest coal customer, and the second-largest of oil, after America.
    It has the largest power-generation capacity, by a wide margin. It also produces MORE CARBON DIOXIDE than any other country.
    China is hoping to deal with this over-dependence on fossil fuels partly by rebalancing the economy away from energy-intensive industries.
    But don’t hold your breath!
    greenie
    10th Mar 2019
    2:33pm
    Another ridiculous article on this site. All infrastructure advice and nothing about practical advice that people can use now. Also wonder about the advice that says have green roofs and walls! Green absorbes heat as other colours do and makes things hotter. Use white and this reflects the heat. Just try putting your hand on a black or other dark coloured car on a hot day then a white car. The difference can be 30C cooler at least.
    Eliza
    10th Mar 2019
    3:53pm
    Greenie ... there is no reference to painting things the colour green.

    The issue is rooftop gardens with shade creating plants ... together with wall gardens growing hardy thick insulating cover thereby cooling both outside and inside.

    This a very serious issue and must be addressed immediately ... we should all be playing our part in whatever way we can ... We are in the winter of our years and it is our comfort and survival on the line and more importantly our children, grandchildren and their progeny.

    We should harness ‘Gey Power, Rally, March, Yell and Scream ... demand our government (no matter who) DO SOMETHING ... we are on the brink of a world wide crisis.
    Even the school children march and rally demanding something serious be done.

    Ironic that your Life Choices ID is ‘greenie’
    Triss
    10th Mar 2019
    4:05pm
    Fill a couple of hot water bottles with cold water and put them in the freezer. Alternate them as the chill wears off during the day. Wrapped in a towel and popped into your bed will give you a better night’s sleep on a hot night.
    Cosmo
    10th Mar 2019
    4:34pm
    I'm with Trebor and Tom Tank on this. After working all over the world and living in several places in Oz I am convinced we build the wrong houses for our climate; a cheaper version of some English designs. So for our retirement place I decided to design our own home which would be cheap to run. It's based on a two story Queenslander with a wide verandah all around, a pale grey metal roof and walls built out of sandstone not wood and a cool underground cellar. Every room has large French doors which are open most of the time to take advantage of the sea breeze to blow through the house during the day and cooling counter breeze from the west at night. We have ceiling fans throughout which are fantastic; I can sit under one when its 36 degrees outside and almost freeze. The lower floor bedrooms never get above 26 in summer or below 18 in winter. We installed A/C (set at 27summer/22 winter) last year for the first time in our lives for our 50th wedding anniversary but we rarely use it. We have surrounded the house with trees, have our own sewage system, large U/G rainwater tank and bore. Our winter heating is wood from the trees we planted. Our power bill is so low its not worth installing solar power at current prices.
    The houses being built now are even worse than post war, no space for a shrub let alone a tree, no eaves to keep the sun off the walls, black roofs and massive air conditioners. I have seen shacks in Mount Isa built 100 years ago where there had a better idea of climate control than developers and builders do today. The idea of rapid development in places like Canberra and far western Sydney where temperatures are extreme in both summer and winter is crazy unless we invest in designs (and surrounds)suitable for the environment and for the future. If I lived long enough my next house would be underground; I'll probably end up there any way!
    musicveg
    10th Mar 2019
    9:24pm
    Mud brick, rammed earth and stone if you can get it.
    KB
    10th Mar 2019
    6:04pm
    Planting g greenery is definitely one of the essentials ways to go. I have a green bush out the front and it keeps the front area of the unit shady and cooler I put the air conditioning on before it gets too hot and that to lower the cools the front area. If is still is hot will use a stand alone fan which is cheaper to run. Greedy energy companies must be forced into lowering the cost of energy during extremely hot weather for the elderly and frail to ab able to access cooling so they can live in comfort
    KB
    10th Mar 2019
    6:04pm
    Planting g greenery is definitely one of the essentials ways to go. I have a green bush out the front and it keeps the front area of the unit shady and cooler I put the air conditioning on before it gets too hot and that to lower the cools the front area. If is still is hot will use a stand alone fan which is cheaper to run. Greedy energy companies must be forced into lowering the cost of energy during extremely hot weather for the elderly and frail to ab able to access cooling so they can live in comfort
    musicveg
    10th Mar 2019
    8:44pm
    No point greening up suburbia if nothing is done to curb the emissions, and also many aged care, rentals and government housing does not have air-conditioning. Housing needs to be built better and more sustainable. Many of those suffering are living in poor housing.
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    9:43pm
    Just before Christmas My air conditioner broke down in heat wave conditions
    .
    A new one was promptly delivered and placed on the floor next to the broken down air conditioner.

    Despite continual complaints to the estate agent. It took three weeks to get a repairman to put the new air conditioner (perfect fit) in the wall where the old air conditioner was sitting. The job took one hour.

    I am thinking I should move to a different town, where I can get help when I need it.
    musicveg
    10th Mar 2019
    10:04pm
    You are lucky to have an air con if you are renting, I do not have air con in my rental. Should be a law put in place to put one in all rentals.
    Charlie
    10th Mar 2019
    10:17pm
    In North Queensland, I turn the aircon on in October and turn it off in April of the next year. I did my school years in this climate without any aircon, but at 70yo I need it every day.

    Even then its still not enough, these new house designs with low ceilings and shallow roof line, desperately need ceiling insulation.. Of course they take more electricity to cool if they are not insulated. Also the air conditioning will not be evenly spread.
    Adrianus
    11th Mar 2019
    9:25am
    Pensioners will be afraid to turn on Air Conditioning under a Labor Government with a 45% target pushing power prices through the roof.
    When the perspiration is dripping down your brow and there seems to be no relief from the relentless heat, console yourself with the thought that you are saving the world from an inevitable extinction before the sun burns out in 5 Billion years.


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