Social participation and heat-related behavior in older adults during heat waves and on other days

Uli Lindemann, Dawn A. Skelton, Juha Oksa, Nina Beyer, Kilian Rapp, Clemens Becker, Jochen Klenk

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Background: High indoor temperatures require behavioral adaptation, especially among vulnerable older adults. There are uncertainties as to the degree to which people adapt to these challenging conditions.
Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the degree of adaptation of social participation and other heat-related behavior with respect to higher indoor temperatures.
Methods: In this study 81 residents from 10 sheltered living facilities (84% women, mean age 80.9 years) were visited every 4 weeks from May to October 2015 and additionally during 2 heat waves in July and August 2015. The indoor temperature, drinking and clothing and social participation were documented. Baseline documentation of gait speed and residential area were used to create subgroups of people with high or low gait speed and with facility location in a garden city/suburb or city/city center.
Results: Social participation and clothing decreased with -4.53 in the World Health Organization participation score units (95% confidence interval CI -5.32; -3.74) and -0.41 for clothing units (95% CI -0.46; -0.37) and volume of drinking increased (0.65 l/day; 95% CI 0.52; 0.77) per increase of indoor temperature by 10¿°C. The negative association between indoor temperature and social life participation was stronger if functional capacity was low or if the facility was located in the city/city center. Not all older adults displayed temperature-related adaptive behavior.
Conclusion: For older adults the negative association between indoor temperature and social life participation was stronger in the city/city center or if their functional capacity was low. Frequent personal contact and motivation of those who are frail might be helpful to support their adaptive behavior of drinking and clothing during heat stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-549
Number of pages7
JournalZeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie
Issue number5
Early online date6 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018



  • older people
  • heat waves
  • social participation
  • behaviour

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