By Craig Miller,
Floods and other major weather events related to change climate could be financially disastrous ... to retirees Joe Gatley
The last hurricane seasons have been milestone events for Reed Galin, which could seem strange since the 67-year-old media producer lives just outside of Nashville. Not exactly “Hurricane Alley. ” Galin's concern was with his parents, both at the time living in Juno Beach, Florida.
His father, Sherman, was particularly worried; he was in the early 90s and bedridden in an elderly care facility less than a mile from the Atlantic coast. In less than a year, Galin saw three hurricanes (Dorian, Isaias and Sally) target Florida's east coast early, knowing that any of them could force the evacuation of the facility. his father.
"I can actually see and believe that climate change is happening.
Additionally, Galin knew the danger, in part due to climate degradation , was occurring more often in the last few years.
" I can actually see and believe that climate change is happening ", saysGalin, "but that 's not an imminent threat to me in the same way as it is when you start talking about having to get my parents out of their situation to avoid ah uragan. Because there may be have physical havoc in their place of residence and what that could mean in their lives. "
A series of recent studies shed light on the risks for older Americans living in the country. coastal areas prone to flooding, especially on the low eastern and gulf coasts.
Effects of climate change on older coastal residents
Proportion of population American over-55s living in coastal areas has grown by more than 80% since 1970. This makes sense, because coastal communities - especially those in warmer climates - have long been popular destinations for retirees. But itThey are also among the areas most vulnerable to nuisance and catastrophic flooding, because the warming of temperatures and the melting of the polar ice sheets are causing the sea level to rise.
About forty healthcare establishments seniors in Florida alone are already at risk of occasional flooding, a number that some analysts say could every 70 in the next 30 years - precisely when people currently in their 50s and 60s could reside there.
Galin was lucky. None of these storms actually forced the evacuation of his parents, a potentially fatal event not only for residents of elderly care communities, but also for those living independently. According to a recent report from the research organization Climate Central ,. (You can use Climate Central's interactive online tool to assess your vulnerability in the face of threats from climate change.)
"In some hurricanes, the difficulties and stress of moving vulnerable older adults caused more deaths than actual storms," notes the Climate Central report. As Next Avenue reported, even and other vital services.
But as families assess these direct threats from extreme weather and rising seas , another aspect of coastal risk is increasingly highlighted: the potential impact on retirement finances. "The people we looked at have seen significant impacts on their savings," says Sieren Ernst, co-founder of the Amherst, Mass.-based Climate Cost Project (CCP), which just released a study of the financial impacts on "flood survivors" in Horry County, SC, home to the Magnet of Myrtle Beach retreat.
This region has seen its population increaseby more than a third over the past decade, mostly due to retirees from northern states. Since 2016, the county has been in the crosshairs of two hurricanes and suffered wind and rain damage from at least eight other major storms, costing $ 136 million. dollars for the federal flood insurance program.
The CCP surveyed 127 households in Horry County and found that more than 8 in 10 people had been flooded twice or more in the past five years. Yet a third of the homes surveyed were in flood-prone areas designated as "low risk" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which manages the taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance program.
Older owners may You will be particularly vulnerable in the years to come, eventually becoming renoApply for flood insurance, as the effects of the weather blackout and extreme weather conditions force premiums to increase.
Ernst says that many people at risk of flooding do not have federal flood insurance. Even though they have such policies, they often find that many flood related expenses are not covered.
Effects on home value and home equity
" They have to dig into savings; a lot of them are going into debt, "says Ernst. "Many people take on credit card debt and then the value of the home, where people have most of their equity, goes down.
Older homeowners may be particularly vulnerable in the years to come, eventually having to give up insurance againstfloods because the ever-increasing effects of the climate breakdown and extreme weather conditions force premiums to be increased.
In early April 2021, FEMA restructured its flood insurance program, tying premiums - for the first time - to stock values as well as altitude. This change will mean significant increases in premiums for owners of high-end properties in flood-prone areas, although premiums are also declining for more than one million homeowners, according to FEMA projections.
Fifteen households in Horry County selected for a detailed CCP follow-up survey saw a median drop in home value of 17%. This made it more difficult to move around to escape future flooding. The overall value of homes in the county, much of which is on higher land inland, has increased.
LThe average loss of wealth due to flooding for these residents: $ 139,146, more than double the median household income in the
Even among those who had received FEMA assistance, the report revealed that residents "still found themselves with significant financial exposure, often depleting their savings and / or going into debt to rebuild a house that was declining in value.
Although the While the CCP study was limited to a relatively small number of households in a single county in South Carolina, it offers insight into the broader impacts already underway from climate change.
In 2019, homes exposed to sea level rise nationwide were selling on average 7% less than equivalent homes, according to University study from Colorado and Penn State University.
Floods of fear and retirement decisions
"Without serious change, both federal and local governments, you're going to end up with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people along the east coast whose finances and livelihoods are damaged by repeated flooding, "says Ernst.
Some pre-retirees take note.
"People have told us that they do not think they will ever be able to retire because of the flooding that has occurred, " said Ernst.
Galin's chronic worries about his parents in Florida due to flooding have sharpened his take on climate chaos.
"It has taken the whole concept of climate change and softened it in real life, right now," he reflects. "When a situation like this happens, you feel like, well, now there is a very specific pressure point in my life. And I worry what that is.means to my parents - not my property, not my convenience, my parents. "