Survey asks older people's views on environment

Posted on 1 February 2012

The elderly are disproportionately affected by environmental problems, but their voices are not often heard on these issues. An international project aims to change that.

The EnviroSurvey55, which will be distributed by researchers in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and can be taken online from anywhere in the world, seeks to identify difficulties that people over age 55 face in personally taking action to reduce their environment footprint.

The goal is to provide a snapshot of older people’s attitudes toward issues such as climate change in an age of austerity and rising environmental skepticism.

The research team is led by Gary Haq, senior researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute’s York Centre, at the University of York, and the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver.

“The survey will provide insight into the level of understanding and concern about environmental issues in this demographic group, including differences that are linked to geography and location,” says Haq. “The results of the survey will feed into the policy process and help develop better strategies that address the environmental concerns of an ageing population.

Other consortium partners include Age UK, the Community Service Volunteers’ Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), Help Age International and the Council On The Ageing (COTA), in Victoria, Australia.

Making their voices heard
“Evidence shows that older people can be disproportionately affected by environmental problems such as air pollution, climate change-related heat waves and other natural disasters,” says Professor Gloria Gutman, research associate at the Gerontology Research Centre. “It’s important that seniors around the world make their voices heard so that steps will be taken to better prepare them and to meet their needs when they can’t always do it themselves.”

The EnviroSurvey55 builds on previous studies of older people and the environment In particular the vulnerability of this demographic group to the effects of a changing climate and the need for new approaches which are sensitive to personal circumstances in later life.

SEI in particular has published several reports on this topic: Greening the Greys: Over 50s and Climate, Growing Old in a Changing Climate, and Older People and Climate Change: The Case for Better Engagement.

The Gerontology Research Centre recently hosted a conference on the interface of population aging and climate change. Proceedings are available here.

The survey comes at a time when the environment will again be in the international spotlight as world leaders gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development “Earth Summit” in June 2012.

The online survey will be conducted from 1 February to 31 March. Anyone over the age of 55 can complete it by visiting www.envirosurvey55.com.