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HomeLocal NewsArizonaMore older Americans at risk for heat-related illness, data shows

More older Americans at risk for heat-related illness, data shows



The new projection estimated more than 20 percent of older adults around the world will experience extreme heat by 2050.

PHOENIX — Summer officially starts in 20 days, but the heat is already turning up in the desert. There is concern with rising temperatures, especially those involving the most vulnerable populations. 

To save lives, there is work being done at the national and local levels. The goal, is to elevate extreme heat as a public health problem to be dealt with at all levels of government. 

Heat is the number one weather-related killer. In 2023 Maricopa County experienced the highest number of heat-related deaths. 645 people died because of heat-related causes. 

The effects of extreme temperatures are hitting our Arizona communities disproportionately. Under-resourced communities and the most vulnerable are at the highest risk of increased health problems like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. These risks multiply in communities of color, older populations and those with a lower socio-economic status. 

The Robert Wood Foundation’s Dr. Alonzo Plough said with summer temperatures catastrophically high, the challenge for community leaders is what to do in the short run to help people adapt. One problem, for example, is Arizonans who live in neighborhoods that don’t have enough trees or green space.

“You can have a 20-degree difference in different neighborhoods,” Dr. Plough said. “Some neighborhoods can be 20 degrees higher because the housing in the lower income neighborhoods are mostly around asphalt. But if you have some kind of green space and trees, those neighborhoods which tend to be higher income, are going to have 20 degree lower on average temperature on the same day.”

New data also showed extreme heat will put millions more older adults at risk in the years ahead. The new projection estimated more than 20 percent of older adults around the world will experience extreme heat by 2050. And that number is up from nearly 14 percent today. The increasing number of people affected by extreme heat globally rising to as many as 246 million more adults ages 69 and older. 

In 2023 Maricopa County recorded a more than 50 percent increase in heat deaths from 2022. As extreme heat looms this summer, experts are calling on new federal strategies to mitigate heat dangers. 

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