Published In

The Gerontologist

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Publication Date



Urban heat island -- Oregon --Portland, Urban climatology -- Social aspects, Heat -- Physiological effect


Background and Objectives

Extreme heat is an environmental health equity concern disproportionately impacting low-income older adults and people of color. Exposure factors, such as living in rental housing and lack of air conditioning, and sensitivity factors, such as chronic disease and social isolation, increase mortality risk among older adults. Older persons face multiple barriers to adaptive heat mitigation, particularly for those living in historically temperate climates. This study measures two heat vulnerability indices to identify areas and individuals most vulnerable to extreme heat and discusses opportunities to mitigate vulnerability among older adults.

Research Design and Methods

We constructed two heat vulnerability indices for the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area: one using area scale proxy measures extracted from existing regional data and another at the individual scale using survey data collected following the 2021 Pacific Northwest Heat Dome event. These indices were analyzed using principal component analysis (PCA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).


Results indicate that the spatial distribution of areas and individuals vulnerable to extreme heat are quite different. The only area found among the most vulnerable on both indices has the largest agglomeration of age- and income-restricted rental housing in the metropolitan area.


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