Climate change poses a financial threat to the elderly

ONCE more the implications of climate change came into focus at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland.

European Council President Charles Michel said, “Humanity has waged a war against nature; we must stop. Planet Earth is our one and only home.” With regards to climate finance, the Council of the European Union plans to mobilise US$1 billion per year to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change in an ageing population.

Research shows that the older population is at an increased risk of climate change, especially those people who live in low-income and middle-income countries. These countries are more susceptible to catastrophes and, unfortunately, two-thirds of the world's population lives in these territories. Natural disasters such as floods, drought, and heatwaves are likely to increase with global warming. Seniors and the elderly have to consider residential locations because of floods and droughts and assess relocation costs.

A recent US study revealed that the ageing population contributes significantly to climate change. Studies show that as residents' age rises the consumption of energy increases. The world's largest consumer of energy are buildings, and residential buildings feature prominently for energy usage. What's even more interesting is that energy consumption increases with age. This could be due to various reasons such as air conditioning usage, and the use of old appliances that are not energy- efficient. Global warming and an ageing population points to a troubling financial outlook.

Financial outlook

Economic growth is expected to be reduced by climate change. Poverty reduction and food security are expected to be hampered. In many developing countries, seniors are working longer as retirement is not a viable option.

A UN study shows close to 14 per cent of women and over 30 per cent of men aged 65 and over are still working.

Globally, many older people work in the informal or agricultural sectors and have little or no savings or pension. And small farmers' livelihoods are expected to be impacted by floods, droughts, and outbreaks of diseases due to climate change.

More than 27 per cent of small farmers are 55 years and older. It is recommended that Government policies harness the knowledge and experience of older farmers and implement technological solutions, scientific approaches, and access to pest-resilient crops in order to reduce environmental damage. Many seniors' lack of personal finances and little or no property insurance limits their ability to respond to climate change.

The dependence of many seniors on a fixed income restricts their ability to meet energy costs, provide food, and cover medical expenses. Climate change presents a real and present threat to a graying population globally.

Grace G McLean is financial advisor at BPM Financial Limited. Contact her gmclean@bpmfinancial and visit the website: She is also a podcaster for Living Above Self. Email her at


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