Background A link between access and availability of different types of assets (i.e. human, physical, social) and impacts of extreme temperatures on human health is deemed to exist. Despite this, limited knowledge is available on the effect such assets have on vulnerability, resilience and adaptation. This study aimed to understand the role assets play in shaping older adults’ vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to extreme temperatures.
Methods We analysed primary data collected using surveys and interviews during 3 phases of research, with independently living men and women aged 65 years or older, resident in Lisbon, Portugal. A total of 52 surveys, 52 heat-related interviews and 46 cold-related interviews with the same participants were included in this study. We used quantitative and qualitative data to measure and assess older adults’ baseline, extreme heat- and cold-related vulnerability and resilience, and adaptation to extreme temperatures. A multimethodological approach was used, descriptive statistics, thematic analysis and triangulation were conducted in PASW and NVivo.
Results Overall, assets were found to be a key determinant of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to extreme temperatures. Furthermore, extreme temperatures were found to threaten the baseline vulnerability, resilience and adaptation of older adults. Vulnerability was not found to be a key determinant of resilience, and both vulnerability and resilience were found to be key determinants of adaptation. Our quantitative findings suggest that both vulnerability and resilience to extreme heat and cold temperatures are shaped by health and social inequalities (34.6%, 50%), housing characteristics (38.5%, 50%) and energy costs for cooling/heating (34.6%, 50%), respectively. The qualitative findings main themes highlight that: older adults engage in common sense behaviours, and; are unable to act beyond these due to lack of access and availability of human (i.e. health status), financial (i.e. income), physical (i.e. housing tenure and quality), place-based (i.e. access to amenities) and social assets (i.e. social capital). As a result, assets were found to constitute barriers to both resilience and adaptation of older adults to extreme temperatures.
Conclusion Our findings highlighted a strong relationship between access and availability of assets and vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to extreme temperatures, as well as the need for developing asset-based approaches to reduce vulnerability, build resilience and improve the adaptation. The vision for further research includes two goals: health and social systems that protect the most vulnerable and less resilient; and enable the less vulnerable and more resilient to preserve their status and retain or improve their adaptation strategies.
- Determinants of health
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