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Gerontologist. 2018 May 8;58(3):567-577. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw167.

Developing an In-depth Understanding of Elderly Adult's Vulnerability to Climate Change.

Author information

Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University New England, Keene, New Hampshire.
Dublin School, New Hampshire.


Purpose of Study:

Recent reports highlight the vulnerability of elderly adults to climate change, yet limited research has focused on this topic. To address this, the purpose of this study was to develop an in-depth understanding of elderly adult's vulnerability to climate change within the context of a specific community.

Design and Methods:

A case study methodology utilizing a community-based action research approach was employed to engage elderly participants living in Bridgeport, CT, in exploring their vulnerability to current and predicted climate stressors with a focus on extreme heat, flooding and storms, and air pollution.


This research identifies personal characteristics that interact with contextual factors to influence elderly adult's vulnerability to climate change. Personal characteristics include health, economic, and social considerations. Contextual factors include the adequacy of emergency preparedness measures, transportation resources, and coping and recovery resources. As a result of the interplay of these characteristics and factors, predicted climate changes could have serious consequences for Bridgeport's elderly adults.


This research provides a contextualized and detailed illustration of how climate change could overwhelm elderly adult's adaptive capacity and highlights the need for support services to provide safeguards. The issues and concerns raised may bear similarities to other locations, especially urban settings facing similar climate stressors with similar socioeconomic conditions. The findings suggest a need for further research to improve our understanding and serve as the basis for collaborative adaptation planning that engages elderly communities with local governments and a broad coalition of partners to keep elders safe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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