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Weather study shows risk to elderly

Areas likely to be home to large proportions of old people in the coming decades could be among those most at risk from extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods, research has suggested.

Researchers have mapped which parts of the country are likely to see an increase in severe weather as a result of climate change, alongside projections for where England's ageing population will be living in the 2030s.

The study led by Durham University and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, published in the journal Applied Geography, warns that many areas projected to see an increase in extreme weather events may also need to care for a high proportion of over-65s as England's population lives longer.

Many rural or semi-rural parts of England are likely to see rapid growth in elderly residents and will have to plan for how they are going to provide the services older people need in the face of a changing climate.

Coastal areas, which will be at a higher risk of flooding by the 2050s, are likely to have among the greatest proportion of older people.

The South West, where older people will make up around 30% to 40% of the population by the 2030s, will be most at risk from heatwaves, to which the elderly are particularly vulnerable.

And areas including the east of England, North West and Yorkshire and Humber are expected to see the greatest increase in heatwaves.

The researchers also warn that while cold snaps will become less common, they will still occur - posing a serious threat to older people - and people may be less able to cope with them.

The researchers warn planners will need to keep road networks, hospitals, care homes and utilities including electricity and water functioning in the midst of extreme weather events to ensure they can provide services older people need.

Professor Sarah Curtis, of Durham University's department of geography, said: "Planning ahead for the growth in the older population, we need to think about the health and social care they will need, and make sure health and social care services are able to function in hot and cold weather."

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