Aged care facilities and retirement homes should consider greening their properties to protect vulnerable residents from the dangers of extreme heatwaves, researchers say, according to the Brisbane Times.
Heatwaves kill more Australians than all other natural disasters combined, putting more vulnerable people such as the very young and the elderly at greater risk.
“[People over 60] tend to be much more vulnerable to heat stress and negative impacts from heat because they tend to have a higher rate of pre-existing conditions, their health is often a little bit weaker,” Griffith University senior lecturer in urban and environmental planning Tony Matthews said.
“In a few decades or less we’ll have one in four Australians who has a heightened degree of vulnerability to heat stress.”
Local councils and state governments could implement concepts such as extra public seating and shaded rest areas, and separated pathways away from bitumen-bound roads to protect slower, more vulnerable Australians from extreme heat, he said.
Those initiatives would also help other vulnerable cohorts such as children and people with disabilities.
Dr Matthews, a 202020 Vision advocate, recently worked with associate professor in urban design Claudia Baldwin, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, and human geography professor Jason Byrne, from the University of Tasmania, on a research project investigating aged care facilities and urban greening.
He said aged care managers were particularly interested in the ideas of re-designing facilities to include more shade, gardens and greenery not just for residents, but for their families and the staff as well.
The idea of having greener spaces was attractive not just for reducing heatwave stress but also for providing a pleasant place for families to visit, for residents to enjoy and for staff to work in.
But, he said, the challenges lay in convincing top-level management that planting trees and gardens could help reduce electricity and air conditioning costs.