Coastal Flood Risk and Climate Change Implications for New Jersey’s Senior Citizens

This report, from the Rutgers Climate Institute, focuses on the social vulnerability and climate-related risks faced by the elderly population in New Jersey, defined as those over 65 years old. The authors focus on coastal flooding and storm surges, present-day impacts that are expected to intensify with continued climate change. The report describes the three characteristics of social vulnerability experienced by many seniors: limited mobility; compromised physical and mental health; and sometimes reduced resources, including income and assistance. The report then assesses the distribution of seniors and critical care facilities in areas of higher coastal flood exposure (CFE) across the state. The authors conclude that seniors living in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Salem, and Monmouth Counties have a higher potential impact from climate-related risks and recommend risk management responses.



Replicate this study to understand flood risks to seniors in your own community and consider if the recommended strategies could benefit seniors where you live.

In the case of New Jersey, a disproportionate number of seniors live in counties subject to storm surges and floods. By overlaying the results of the Rutgers Coastal Flood Exposure Assessment for conditions in 2015 with the population distribution of seniors, the authors show that their population density is heavily concentrated along the northeastern coast close to the area of flood exposure. Ocean County has the greatest number of seniors within CFE areas at 59,435 people, whereas 99% of Cape May County’s senior population lives in CFE areas. Cape May and Hudson Counties are home to the greatest number of critical care facilities (hospitals and nursing homes) within CFE areas. Given available data, the authors identified 39 total critical care facilities in CFE areas in New Jersey.

Recommended strategies to protect the elderly population include:

  1.       Improved plans for sheltering-in-place and post-event recovery for displaced seniors
  2.       Systematic assessment of medical care with regard to electrical power, backup systems, and capacity to move people between facilities
  3.       Encourage use of communication devices to connect seniors with their physicians, pharmacists, and caregivers before, during and after hazard events
  4.       Prioritize critical infrastructure needs with attention to the dependence of seniors
  5.       Restrict permitting new facilities that cater to seniors in highly vulnerable locations, and require upgrades of those that currently exist

Referring to a report from the Rutgers Climate Institute, the authors note that seniors living in and near coastal areas may experience more intense floods and storm surges due to climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels. During natural disasters, on average, seniors have an excess mortality rate at 10 times that of younger populations.

 

This report is part of a series prepared on behalf of the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance. 

Publication Date: April 2015

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  • Rutgers University

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  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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