How Older Adults Can Reduce Risks of Climate Change Hazards

As climate change intensifies, older adults in British Columbia will face increasing health threats from wildfires and extreme temperatures. Now is the time to gain a better understanding of provincial emergency response resources and prepare for potential hazards. With nearly one-fifth of B.C.’s population 65 years or older in 2022 (increasing to 25% in 2031), communities and local governments need to help this growing demographic assess the risks and learn what can be done to stay safe.

While climate change affects everyone, older adults are particularly vulnerable and more at risk during extreme weather events due to a range of underlying health issues. Heatwaves, for example, can heighten cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, leading to increased hospitalizations and sometimes even death. Poor air quality from increasing pollution levels, allergens and wildfire smoke can negatively affect older adults with respiratory problems like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Many older adults also have limited mobility and may find it challenging to evacuate during emergencies or find shelter. They may also have difficulty accessing medical care or medications after a climate disaster. To address these challenges, local governments and communities need to implement strategies that enhance the resilience of older adults. Options could involve creating targeted emergency response plans, improving infrastructure, promoting community support networks and ensuring access to healthcare and social services. Here are some essential resources that local and Indigenous governments can share to help residents effectively navigate wildfire emergencies and cope with extreme heat conditions. The right knowledge and precautions can help older adults enjoy a safe and comfortable summer.

A range of provincial resources to support planning and preparedness are provided below:

Emergency Preparedness

Being prepared is the key to effectively managing emergency situations. The BC government provides comprehensive resources and guidelines to help local governments and residents overall to plan for the occurrence of wildfires and high temperatures. The Emergency Preparedness BC website offers valuable information on creating emergency kits, developing evacuation plans and staying informed through reliable channels like the Emergency Info BC website and mobile app.

Wildfire Safety

Wildfire safety is critical in regions prone to these natural disasters. To minimize the risk of wildfires, it is crucial to follow local guidelines and regulations. Creating defensible spaces around homes, practicing responsible outdoor fire use and being vigilant about potential fire hazards can significantly reduce wildfire risk. By prioritizing wildfire safety measures, communities can protect lives, property and the environment from the devastating effects of wildfires.

  • FireSmart BC’s short video on protecting yourself and your home with this wildfire checklist.
  • WorkSafeBC created a FAQ guide on wildfire smoke.

Evacuation Planning and Routes

In the event of a wildfire, having a well-thought-out evacuation plan can save lives. Local governments can provide updates and resources to support residents to familiarize themselves with evacuation routes, establish meeting points for family members and identify temporary accommodation options. Staying informed about current wildfire conditions and having an evacuation plan ready can help residents respond swiftly and safely during emergencies. The BC government, local municipalities and emergency management authorities regularly update evacuation routes and provide real-time information during emergencies to ensure safe evacuation for residents.

Extreme Heat Guide

During extreme heat events in BC, the risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke is significant for older adults. The right precautions can help them stay safe and comfortable.


As wildfires and extreme heat events become more frequent and severe due to climate change, it is important for local governments, communities and individuals to implement strategies that enhance the resilience of older adults. By empowering communities with knowledge and acting in unity, we can ensure the comfort and well-being of older adults while confronting the challenges from our changing climate.