These health-related hazards are sure to increase as rising sea levels coincide with the growing elderly population along the coasts, said Dr. Hauer.
In an analysis of all coastal counties in the United States, Dr. Hauer predicted that the proportion of people over 65 living in coastal communities would rise steadily, to about 37 percent of the population by 2100, compared to 16 percent today. That population would consist of older people moving in and younger people staying in their later years.
“We know there are two trends going on: the impact of climate change as the world ages,” said Dr. Hauer. “I’m afraid those two trends will collide head-on, and we’ll see more catastrophic consequences than if either had happened.”
The Hoaglands said their stress increased as climate risks increased on both coasts.
They moved to Florida in 1992 to raise their four children and practice medicine (Melissa, 64, as a pathologist and Guy, 65, as an internist). In 2011, they bought a home in the Bay Area, where Melissa had studied medicine and always dreamed of returning. They retired early and lived in California in the summer and Florida in the winter.
Over the years in Florida, hurricanes and storm surges on the Indian River have threatened their home on a barrier island near Melbourne. During a storm, water spilled over a road within a few feet of their house.
“Drainage was a problem on the roads,” said Guy. “I noticed that local flooding was higher than ever before.”
At the same time, wildfires, which were becoming more frequent, spread smoke in the Bay Area. Guy, an avid walker, began carrying an inhaler to help with exercise-induced asthma.