Amanda Lawrence, Local Emergency Management Officer at Wingecarribee Shire Council, talks about how her council is helping elderly residents to prepare for climate change.
Climate change will affect almost every aspect of our daily lives, from higher temperatures and lower average rainfalls to more intense and extreme weather events. The impacts are already being felt by the most vulnerable in our community, including the elderly.
Of the 49,000 people living in Wingecarribee Shire – a rural area south of Sydney – a quarter are aged over 65.
Many retirees who move to our towns and villages leave behind family and established social support networks. Extreme weather events like floods, windstorms, or fires can exacerbate the problems of social isolation, limited mobility and age-associated health issues.
During a fire or flood evacuation, elderly residents face a higher risk of injury, meaning extra care and already over-taxed emergency services are needed for them to be moved safely. They also face the added stress of being separated from the carers and social groups they are comfortable with.
In Wingecarribee Shire, we run an Extreme Weather Workshop to help seniors prepare for extreme weather resulting from climate change. Our “Fire and Ice” workshop held during Seniors Week, helps older residents understand how forward planning can mean peace of mind when extreme weather hits, who to call and where to get help.
The workshop looks at planning, energy usage, maintenance, insurance and the preparation assistance offered by our Emergency Service Agencies.
Engaging with seniors to understand their safety needs during extreme weather is critical to our own Emergency plans, but can also be fundamental to the resilience of entire communities.
If we empower seniors, raise awareness of the risks of climate change and help them build confidence in facing extreme weather we can ensure the mental and physical safety of our local communities.