Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Guest Blogger Clem Samuels - Boomer - Minneapolis, MN
Several times in the past few months I have over heard a number of retirees comment on how fortunate they feel being the age they are. The main reason they give for feeling that way is climate change and the idea that they won't have to "deal with it."
No recognition that the climate is changing due in part by the way they lived their younger lives, or that as they age they use even more of the world's resources.
In study done by Hossein Estiri and Emileo Zagheni, published in the September 2019 issue of Energy Research and Social science, they found that the lowest energy usage was by young adults,( smaller homes, less but more efficient appliances and power items).
Usage went up in the 30-54 age group due to larger houses, multiple people living in a dwelling, and all that involves mid-life and families.
Energy use stabilized in the 54 to 70 age group, but started to increase after age 70, and kept increasing as people aged. The trend of increased energy use by the elderly continued even when income and housing types were factored in.
But energy use by those older people varied by geography. The research showed "energy consumption in warmer regions became really elevated for the older group." It seems older people have more of a need for air conditioning. Their houses may not be as efficient and their appliances tend to be older and less efficient.
More warm days are coming. and coming to a larger area. There will be more energy used by older people, and, with the population aging, there will be more people in that age group. The hotter it gets the more stress there is on the body.
Dr. Lisa Brown, Director of Risk and Resilience Research at Palo Alto University noted, that for the less healthy and seniors that stress is even higher. Blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications reduce the bodies ability to thermo-regulate. Diminished cognitive functions (another symptom of aging) may make it harder to act and decide what to do about it. There is a common belief that most older adults feel like the ones in the beginning of this essay; that older adults care less about climate change than younger adults. But, in a 2018 PEW research poll, that is true only for Republicans. The study found that older Democrats were far more concerned about climate change than older Republicans.
Gen X and Millennials that identify as Republicans were more in-line with Democrats.
Ten years ago, Dr Karl Pillemer, a Generologist at Cornell University, found that as a whole, environmental organizations ignored older people. He started a program called RISE, (Retirees in Service to the Environment) to prepare older volunteers for leadership roles in environmental organizations. Dr. Pillemer noted that "generative," later-in-life volunteerism has been shown to increase physical and psychological health.
Baby boomers have had a huge influence on all aspects of society all through their life. Now that those boomers are becoming the oldest generation doesn't mean their influence should stop. Some Boomers are involved in working to halt climate change, but not very many. If more and more Boomers got involved in the climate change fight, they could have a far reaching and global changing impact.