Effect of Climate Change on Comfort Levels of Older People in Nursing Homes in Florida

Topics: Public health, Health care, Air conditioning Pages: 5 (1604 words) Published: September 1, 2013
EFFECT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON COMFORT LEVELS OF OLDER PEOPLE IN NURSING HOMES IN FLORIDA

John Onyango1 & Angelica Tavarez

1 School of Architecture, University of Miami, USA, j.onyango@miami.edu 2 School of Architecture, University of Miami, USA, g.wang2@miami.edu

Abstract

It is estimated that temperature and humidity levels in Florida will increase on average by between 4° F and 11° F by 2080 due to effects of climate change. This will results in the characteristics of the indoor environment falling outside the comfort zone and an increased use of air conditioning system. The impact of the change on the elderly is particularly frightening. According to the Alzheimer’s Association study, the number of people with dementia in the USA is expected to top 7.7 million by 2030. The study examined the indoor environmental quality of five nursing homes in South Miami in order to understand the current state of affairs. It then simulated what these conditions exactly are and how they are most likely due to climate change effects. The study used Energyplus and Radiance to examine the effects using morphed probabilistic data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA).

Keywords: indoor temperatures, elderly, climate change, South Florida, nursing homes

As the ecology of our planet is constantly evolving, climate change continues to play a major role in the many ways in which human health will be negatively impacted in the future. In addition to plethora of already existing health problems mankind is already experiencing, the impact of these changes will bring on and increase the chance of newer and more severe health problems, and in some unfortunate cases, cause premature death. These environmental changes that will cause these unfortunate illnesses include floods, rising sea levels, heat waves, and increased drought. (Carpenter H.) As a result, there will be a direct responsibility in the health care field that will require nurses to be educated and prepared for increased hospital visits and on their toes for continuous catastrophic events.

It is estimated that temperature and humidity levels in Florida will increase on average by between 4° F and 11° F by 2080 due to effects of climate change. This will result in the characteristics of the indoor environment falling outside the comfort zone and as a predictable defense, an increased use of air conditioning systems. According to The Royal Society for Public Health, due to a warming climate, it is any individual’s first intuition to use air conditions in order to prevent discomfort. This method is ironically the solution that is non-sustainable and contradicts the growing desire for more energy efficient and airtight homes that many individuals continue to stress. Rising temperatures have the ability to compromise the human body and adversely affecting health. Consequently, the human body has difficulties maintaining thermoregulation. (Anderson M.) Therefore, thresholds for indoor temperature should be defined as a public health issue. Under these circumstances, thermoregulation is the ability of the human body to maintain a regular body temperature, even when the surrounding temperature is immeasurably different. As a result, one can undergo physiological damage and can experience a continuum of heat stress, strain, stroke, and even death. Certain age groups and demographics are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses. Being that the temperature in Florida has already begun to cause unbearable reactions, the nursing homes in the more southern areas are going to need to take serious preventative measures. Considering Florida has the highest percentage of senior residents in the country, with 17.3 percent older than age 65 in 2010, the impact of the change on the elderly is particularly frightening. According to the Alzheimer’s Association study, the number of people with dementia is 24.3 million globally with and constant increase of...


References: Anderson Mindy, Carmichael Catriona, Dengel Andy, Murray Virginia, Swainson Michael (2012) : Perspectives in Public Health Defining indoor heat thresholds for health in the UK 158-161, 162, 163
Fleming Richard, Purandare Nitin (2010) : Long-term care for people with dementia: environmental design guidelines. 1084, 1085
Hwang Jihye, Kim Jeong Tai, Lee Yeunsook, Lim Soohyun (2012) Indoor Building Environment: Identifying Characteristics of Design Guidelenes for Elderly Care Environments from Holistic Health Perspetive. 244-247
Carpenter H., Sayre L., Rhazi N., Hughes NL. (2010): Climate change and human health: the role of nurses in confronting the issue.
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