Villanova nursing expert warns of climate change effects on older adults

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Villanova University nursing expert is sounding the alarm about how climate change affects older adults. 

Ruth McDermott-Levy, director of the Center for Global Health at Villanova's College of Nursing, is the lead author on an article published in the November issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. McDermott-Levy explained more than half of older adults live in areas that experience severe weather caused by climate change like heat waves, wildfires and hurricanes. 

These areas include Pennsylvania, California, and Florida, and McDermott-Levy says these weather patterns are placing older Americans at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and death. 

"We're actually getting ready to do an epidemiological study where we're going to quantify the deaths, climate deaths," said McDermott-Levy. "But one of the problems is nobody is listening."

She said experts say we have ten years before it's too late to turn back climate change, and that it's time to lift the blinders and see what is happening. 

"It's an existential crisis, and I'm not a worrier," McDermott-Levy declared. "I'm an optimist, but this is all happening much more quickly than we expected it to happen."

McDermott-Levy insisted it's time for people to make the link between the bad weather and climate change, and then call elected officials and demand action. 

She also said it's time for more nurses to be elected to policy-making positions, and keep these issues front and center. 

McDermott-Levy and a colleague intend to publish the results of their study by the spring.