As a part of a broader NIH-wide initiative, the National Institute on Aging funds research that explores the effects of extreme weather and natural disasters on older adults, with the ultimate aim of improving the well-being of people who experience these events.Using large sources of data, such as Medicare claims records and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, a research team discovered that disruption of basic health care has serious consequences.
The researchers in an NIA-funded study found that people with breast cancer who lived through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 experienced interrupted care and were more likely to die within 10 years than those not exposed to the disaster. Bell’s research has also demonstrated that living through disasters, when regular health care services and access to treatment may be limited, increases the likelihood that older adults will be hospitalized. Moreover, older adults living in poverty and those with certain chronic conditions are more likely to be hospitalized during or immediately after a disaster compared to all older adults.
A summary on the range of research being conducted on the impact of extreme weather and climate change on older adults is available here and may be useful to age-and dementia friendly community planning processes.