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Risk perception and heat protection behavior of older adults in the city of Cologne, Germany

Authors: Juliane Kemen*, University Hospital Bonn, Institute for Hygiene and Public Health, Silvia Schäffer-Gemein, University Hospital Bonn, Institute for Hygiene and Public Health, Thomas Kistemann, University Hospital Bonn, Institute for Hygiene and Public Health
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: heat wave, knowledge, perception, health risk, climate change, adaptation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate change has led to a global increase of heat waves which are a major burden to human health. The most vulnerable risk group are people over 65 years of age. The transdisciplinary project “Heat Action Plan for Elderly People in Cologne” follows an innovative approach which combines public health research with municipal knowledge. This talk examines how knowledge and perception of heat waves in older persons are linked with adaptation to climate change. We conducted a survey with structured interviews with 260 people 65 years and older, living in their own homes in four areas in the city of Cologne, Germany. The areas vary in terms of social deprivation and heat strain. The persons were personally visited by interviewers from August to October of 2019. Results show that most participants consider themselves not to be at risk, even though they noticed an increase of heat waves in their city and considered older people as a vulnerable group. Most respondents reported a variety of adaptation methods (e.g. drinking more fluids, rescheduling activities, resting more) but we identified a notable group which is not adapting to heat. Local health authorities should consider the results to inform Heat Health Action Plans.

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