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The Forum > Article Comments > The geriatric climate change imperative > Comments

The geriatric climate change imperative : Comments

By Peter Curson, published 27/3/2007

Some groups of Australians, like the elderly, are likely to be more at risk from climate change than others.

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“It is imperative that we view the expert comment about the impact of global warming on Australia in the context of current demographic, social and economic trends, with particular reference to those groups that are likely to be among the most vulnerable.”
Who are the most vulnerable, and why is it so?
Is such vulnerability due to age alone?
Should ageing - that unavoidable characteristic of biology - by itself be lumbered with such a sweeping accusation as “the related increase in chronic illness, disability and medication-dependence,”?
Certainly for we humans, usually only for the last couple of years above the surface of this planet, life quality is almost invariably associated with a downhill run. Pursued by a rapidly overtaking scythe-wielding spectre. The time and manner of catch-up is determined largely by the extent of the victim’s heavy handicap of past lifestyle and manner of environmental exposure; all under the guidance of genes - the personal jockey.
So will the most vulnerable cohort be the four score years and ten, plus two? Three score years and ten, plus two? Or less? Which will it be when the heat really hits the fan in another generation; when my grandchildren are thirty or forty-odd?
Whether the bulk of the most vulnerable are aged four, three score etc. years or less might have more to do with late-onset diabetes, and associated or similarly-induced health impairments spawned by early-and-continuing inappropriate lifestyles. Lifestyles with diets far divorced from that of their evolutionary development. Our species metabolism is attuned for an actively roaming lifestyle fueled on varied, usually spartan, diets - and oxygenated from atmospheres most often devoid of gross pollution.
Will the problems afflicting those approaching life’s terminus be due more to heat stress directly, Japanese encephalitis sweeping down from New Guinea on the pig’s (or night-heron’s) back; Dengue or Malaria – or to the health-burden imposed by incessant sedentary lifestyle at the computer terminal or behind the steering wheel, and continuous overindulgence in food for the amount of exercise. Food that is – on an evolutionary basis – inferior, at least in variety.
Posted by colinsett, Tuesday, 27 March 2007 10:17:13 AM
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Colinsett, I think you've summed up the situation rather nicely, although some younger readers may not have a clue as to what a "score" is exactly.
I agree that the excesses of modern Western civilisation has a lot to do with an overall failing of health amongst it's inhabitants. Everything moves so fast these days from fast foods to fast highways carrying all that fast food and the rubbish they refer to as "fresh" produce and when those excesses eventually catch up with the people who abuse it, they're atificially kept alive with billions of dollars worth of medication, often well past their natural lifespan.
The elderly also suffer from our "fast lifestyle." Not that long ago, the elderly stayed at home and were cared for by their families. Today, they're shoved off into nursing homes and "out of the way" in many cases simply because there's nobody at home all day to look after them in their often dementing state.
I find nothing sadder than going to work every day only to see the same tired old faces sitting around staring into infinity, some even expressing the disire to be let die, but oh no! That's not allowed to happen. For some reason, doctors long ago decided to play God and instead of allowing the elderly to pass away from the effects of say, pneumonia, they're rushed off to the ER and drugged back to life only to await the next episode which is often a continuing event.
My mother refuses to be drawn into the drug taking regime. You can't get her to take a simple asprin and she refuses to go see a doctor unless she "breaks something." "Doctors are only good for fixing broken bones," she says indignantly and I tend to agree. Mum's doing just fine, even though she's well into the "aged" category.
Nature will win out in the end, possibly through climate change, but more likely lack of resources as the human tide complete with it's greed and corruption over-populates itself into oblivion.
Posted by Aime, Tuesday, 27 March 2007 11:09:08 AM
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Peter et al,

I read your article and the following comments about 'climate change and the geriatric' with much interest. As I am in the third stage of life, much of what you write about concerns me personally. I found the observations though kindly meant, rather patronising. If climate change causes a great deal of us to drop "off the twig" so be it. I assume the writers are aware of Malthusian principles - and climate change, I believe, fits in nicely here. It is much preferable to extending the dying process.

There is a lot of mawkish sentimentality given towards the elderly, who after all, have lived their lives; and the expression "the tyranny of extreme youth and extreme age" is very true. Also, this sentimentality expresses itself in uncalled-for condescension.

On doing an exercise class for seniors, after informing the instructors that it was my body in decline, not my mind, I left. On obtaining an exercise program from a hospital, I found that illustrations of the elderly depicted them as toothless (mouths puckered and rouched) and decidedly dotty looking. Ageism, with all its preconceptions is alive and well.

Concerning the problems of climate change, humane concern should be a factor in all decision making, but the elderly should not be singled out. We should be focusing more on the young and the problems that await them.
Posted by Danielle, Tuesday, 27 March 2007 3:00:28 PM
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Aime, thank you for dragging me forward into the present.
"Three score years and ten" seems to have passed out of current literature: It was often used by the poetically inclined for a then-standard life-span of 70 years, the "score" being twenty. It was a standard for those healthy outdoor types of a century or two back. The ones who had not broken their bodies or lungs in the course of a non-workcover protected daily grind.
I have so-far enjoyed a span of life somewhat beyond that, but I expect quite a few more of healthy enjoyment before the commencement of those unkind last one or two.
Good tucker, good exercise, retaining a sense of humour, and just plain luck seem to have helped so far.
Posted by colinsett, Tuesday, 27 March 2007 3:54:39 PM
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