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Heatwave-proofing homes could save lives – and cut carbon

Adapt to climate change with insulated walls, window shutters and reverse-cycle heat pumps.

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Buildings are designed to keep people safe and comfortable according to the local climate: warm when it’s cold outside, dry when it’s wet and sheltered when it’s stormy. If the climate changes, buildings may struggle to serve our needs in the new conditions. The UK’s recent 40°C heatwave showed that many existing structures – especially the homes where we spend two-thirds of our lives – aren’t up to the task.

Older people with existing health problems are among the most vulnerable during hot weather, as the heat can exacerbate potentially fatal conditions such as respiratory and heart diseases and even Alzheimer’s. An early estimate suggests as many as 1,000 excess deaths may have occurred in England and Wales as a result of the three-day heatwave in mid-July 2022.


Read more: Heatwaves can kill – research uncovers the homes most vulnerable to overheating


Each country must upgrade its buildings to keep people safe as the world warms. This is part of what climate change experts call adaptation. The other half of that obligation is mitigation: cutting emissions as fast possible to minimise the temperature increase. By adapting homes to withstand stronger heatwaves, countries have an opportunity to meet both needs at the same time.

You will have heard some of the solutions for decarbonising buildings: increased roof and wall insulation and double-glazed windows for energy efficiency, and replacing gas boilers with alternatives such as heat pumps which can run on renewable electricity. These same measures will also help people stay safe during future heatwaves.

Just as better insulation keeps warm air inside during winter, it keeps it outside during summer. Shutters or blinds that block sunlight are a simple option for lowering indoor temperatures by keeping out even more heat. It even helps to paint roofs a light colour to better reflects the sun’s rays. In the Australian state of New South Wales, a policy to completely ban dark-coloured roofs was recently considered.

Shutters have been used for centuries in hot countries to banish the midday sun. Nadia_if/Shutterstock

Most homes in the UK are heated with gas boilers but have no equivalent system for cooling. Heat pumps can help. These machines are essentially refrigerators working backwards. Where a fridge sucks heat from its interior and disperses it through the coils on its back, a heat pump sucks the heat from the air (or ground) outside and transfers it to the inside of your house to keep you warm in winter. The process runs on electricity, so it does this without needing to burn gas.

Heat pumps can be programmed to work a reverse cycle, allowing them to pump cold water rather than hot water through the radiators to cool your house in summer. But this cooling cycle has to be built into the heat pump system when it’s installed – it’s not as simple as flicking a switch. Unfortunately, the UK government offers little guidance. The Energy Saving Trust, a government body tasked with making homes more energy efficient, neglects even to mention in its guide to heat pumps that they are capable of cooling.

The rate at which heat pumps are installed almost doubled during 2021 in the UK. As a result, there will be many homes with new heat pumps, funded with public subsidies, that can only provide heating.

A large grey air conditioner unit attached to the brick exterior of a house.
Installed properly, a heat pump can cool as well as heat a home. Klikkipetra/Shutterstock

Better homes overall

This lack of foresight in national responses to climate change is frustrating. Insulating buildings would help permanently lower energy bills for millions, but the UK government has starved energy efficiency measures of resources over the past decade. Recently, plans were abandoned that would have doubled funding for low-income housesholds to become more energy efficient. Meanwhile, the UK’s newly built homes suffer from much of the same poor insulation as older ones.

Some countries are being more proactive. Italian homeowners can claim 110% of the cost of energy efficiency improvements against their taxes, up to €100,000 (£84,000) over five years. That is more than enough to upgrade a house to net-zero standard, estimated at £26,000 in the UK.

If homes need less energy to heat or cool because they have been made more energy efficient, it would help reduce (and perhaps even eradicate) fuel poverty. If they are able to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures and air quality through better ventilation, they can better accommodate people working or learning from home should there be another pandemic.

And, if the technology is powered by a dispersed renewable energy network, comprised of rooftop solar panels feeding excess energy to the grid, society will be more resilient to future spikes in the price of energy. Beyond any benefits these actions might have for tackling climate change, they simply reflect the reality of modern life.

The solutions are simple, but implementing them will be complex – all countries must coordinate their responses more effectively. A lot of money, both public and private, will be spent on cutting emissions to net zero. Unless countries plan for adapting to rising temperatures at the same time, the opportunity for more comfortable, resilient and liveable homes will be lost.


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Ran Boydell has received commissions and grant funding from the Scottish government.

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COVID antibody declines prompts call for booster jabs ASAP

Figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the number of people with higher
The post COVID antibody declines prompts call…

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Figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the number of people with higher levels of COVID-19 antibodies in their blood is declining quickly – leading to calls for booster vaccination campaigns to be started as soon as possible.

The ONS survey – based on swab and blood samples from thousands of households across the country – found that the proportion of people in England with antibody levels of at least 800 ng/ml fell from 82.4% in March to 71.9% in mid-July.

The 12.7% decrease is “obviously concerning,” according to Dr Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at private testing company London Medical Laboratory, who says the trend is the same in other countries of the UK.

“We already know the latest Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are the most contagious yet and remain a potentially considerable threat to our health,” he said. “The UK population needs to retain a substantial number of antibodies going into the dangerous winter months.”

The finding comes as the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 continues to decrease in England, Wales and Scotland, with an uncertain trend, in Northern Ireland, according to the ONS’ latest update, which was published on 5 August.

Fivelman’s concern is that if the rate of decline continues, only 60% of the UK population will retain substantial antibodies if the next booster campaign for the over-50s and vulnerable people gets underway in early October.

“The new Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants do not produce as high an immune response as the previous strains, so re-infection is more likely to occur,” he points out. “Higher levels of antibodies are important to neutralise the virus, stopping infection and limiting people transmitting the virus to others.”

On the plus side, the UK’s baseline antibody level of at least 179 ng/ml, determined at the height of the Delta variant, has held firm. In all 97.8% of people in England had antibody levels of 179 ng/ml in mid-March, and this had fallen only fractionally, to 96.3% by mid-July.

One issue facing the government is that new versions of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been tweaked to improve efficacy against Omicron may not be available in time for an earlier start for the booster campaign – or indeed October, unless the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) can approve them quickly.

Both shots – based on the original Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant – are currently under review at the regulator.

The post COVID antibody declines prompts call for booster jabs ASAP appeared first on .

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Monkeypox: demand for vaccines is outstripping supply – this is what’s causing the shortages

Chronic weaknesses in our global vaccine manufacturing and distribution systems may broadly be to blame.

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The smallpox vaccine is currently being used to protect against monkeypox. PhotobyTawat/ Shutterstock

Over 30,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 80 countries worldwide in 2022. Most are in countries that have never previously reported monkeypox. While monkeypox is not as transmissible as many respiratory infections (such as COVID-19), it’s still important to curb the spread.

One way to control spread is by vaccinating vulnerable people. Fortunately, we already have vaccines which are very effective at preventing monkeypox. But as case numbers continue to rise, reports are emerging that demand for vaccines is outstripping supply in many parts of the world currently seeing an outbreak, including the US, UK and Europe.

Vaccine supply

There are a number of reasons why we are seeing shortages of the vaccine used to protect against monkeypox. Broadly, it’s due to chronic weaknesses in our global vaccine manufacturing and distribution systems, which make it especially difficult to supply the vaccines needed to protect against new infections and outbreaks.

The vaccine currently being used to protect against monkeypox is the smallpox vaccine, which works because the monkeypox virus is so closely related to smallpox.

Until now, the smallpox vaccine has been a niche product because it’s not been needed since smallpox was eradicated in 1980. Pharmaceutical companies can’t afford to manufacture vast numbers of doses just in case, and few governments can justify buying a vaccine that isn’t used. This means the vaccines currently being administered are from emergency stockpiles that were created to respond to an accidental (or deliberate) release of smallpox.


Read more: Monkeypox Q&A: how do you catch it and what are the risks? An expert explains


As such, there are limited stocks and production capacity globally, so demand is rapidly outstripping supply. Even the US, with one of the largest smallpox vaccine stockpiles, recently ordered 2.5 million additional doses in response to the monkeypox outbreak. But there are reports that the factory in Denmark which makes the world’s only smallpox vaccine approved for monkeypox is temporarily closed, which may further impact the world’s ability to source more vaccine doses. And unfortunately, transferring production to other facilities is not straightforward.

One particular problem for vaccine manufacturers is that it’s hard to predict when or where big outbreaks of infections may happen. Of course, there are some infections that we know consistently require a regular supply of vaccines – such as the influenza virus. But while 1 billion influenza vaccines are produced globally each year, it still takes approximately six months from picking the most important new strains to manufacturing and rolling out jabs.

So even with vaccines in high demand, it isn’t simple to manufacture more doses. This is why we are still striving to innovate ways to rapidly produce new vaccines affordably and at a very large scale.

Vaccines are inherently complicated to make. Because they are made from relatively fragile and complex biological materials (such as a virus), the product has to be exactly right every time. If the formula changes even slightly, it might not work as well – or even increase the risk of side-effects.

Adding to this challenge is the fact that different vaccine products may be manufactured by different methods. For example, the equipment needed to produce a viral vaccine (such as the smallpox vaccine used against monkeypox) will be very different to that used to make COVID-19 RNA vaccines. It’s also slow and expensive to test any necessary modifications or improvements that may be needed to make a vaccine safer and more effective.

Glass vials arranged in a row move through a conveyer belt, where they are filled with the vaccine.
It isn’t just as easy as making more vaccines to meet demand. wacomka/ Shutterstock

Surprisingly, even some simple processes common to all vaccines and other medicines – such as filling doses into vials for distribution to patients – still have a mismatch of capacity. Vaccines are usually manufactured in different locations to packaging facilities, raising logistical hurdles (such as strictly controlled refrigeration requirements) that can further delay distribution. These facilities are used for many different medicines and are usually fully booked years in advance; schedules that are still recovering from COVID-19 disruptions may now be experiencing urgent changes to package the smallpox vaccine from stockpiles.

It also isn’t just a case of developing new monkeypox vaccines that are easier to manufacture. Even with major recent scientific progress, it would take many months to develop a safe and effective new vaccine. For monkeypox, it’s far quicker and simpler to use the existing smallpox vaccine.

What can be done?

Smallpox vaccine production is likely to be increased to meet demand. But until this happens, many countries will have to make best use of what supplies they can access, and rely on other strategies to help curb the virus’s spread.

The most effective way to prevent monkeypox causing further harm is by using an integrated, locally led public health response – vaccines are just one part of this. Testing and contact tracing is vital. If enough infected people in a region can be identified and supported to isolate while they’re infectious, transmission can be blocked.

Given the vaccine shortages, we expect that people don’t need two vaccine doses to be protected against monkeypox. This is why vaccinating the most at-risk groups with one dose now, paired with other public health measures, is the most effective strategy for curbing the spread of monkeypox – especially while vaccine supplies are limited. Second doses can be administered to maximise immunity when supplies do become available.

The current monkeypox outbreak is yet another reminder of the importance of investing in global health, and ensuring there’s more equal access to vaccines and other medical interventions that can help prevent the spread of harmful diseases.

Alexander Edwards does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Ivana Trump’s Money Lessons for Older Americans.

Ivana Trump, the first wife of Donald Trump, was recently found dead in her Manhattan residence. She was 73.

Known throughout her life as a dynamo socialite…

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Ivana Trump, the first wife of Donald Trump, was recently found dead in her Manhattan residence. She was 73.

Known throughout her life as a dynamo socialite and dealmaker in heels, her death from a blunt trauma from a fall down the stairs in her multi-story townhome, was a shock to residents who perceived her as vibrant and full of life. So, her passing got me thinking about Ivana Trump’s money lessons for older Americans.

Listen, it’s tough to age, but don’t let the process get you down. It’s too hard to get back up! Get it?

Seriously, a great challenge is an acceptance of growing older. Aging can be a tough pill to swallow. Especially for those who are known for the travails of their younger days. I have friends who explain as they age, they ‘disappear.’ I hate to hear this.

Personally, I’m living my best self and wouldn’t change a thing. However, Ageism is a real societal challenge. Based on numerous surveys, white papers, and reports from health organizations, those who are 60 and older are subject to negative stereotyping and discrimination in the workplace. Also, to younger generations, they do disappear in a manner of speaking.

But I have news for you. I think that’s about to change for you ‘seasoned’ folks.

During the pandemic, the Labor Force Participation Rate collapsed and has yet to recover. For those who need a reminder, the LFPR represents the people age 16 and older employed or seeking employment. Older Americans decided to accelerate retirement. Younger cohorts decided to go out on their own or sit back – satiated by government stimulus.

I think many older Americans will seek to unravel their retirement decision and return to the workforce. Also, I believe they’ll be welcomed with open arms by employers eager for a generation that is timely, responsible, and willing to work!

Let’s kick Ageism where it hurts. Right in the work ethic!

One money lesson I’ve learned from Ivana Trump about older Americans is that the entire world is wrinkling.

According to Peter Zeihan in his latest book – The End of The World is just the Beginning, population, and spending shrinkages are realities the entire globe must embrace. Demographics outline that mass-consumption-driven economies have already peaked.

By 2030, the world will be populated with twice as many retirees. Therefore, we all better internalize the fact that we’re getting older and financially and emotionally prepare accordingly. Long-term, poor demographics are deflationary.

In my opinion, Ivana Trump refused to accept aging. Thus, I consider Ivana Trump’s money lessons for older Americans applicable to all of us. 

Regardless of her immense wealth, she must have encountered anguish when it comes to getting older. Sure having money doesn’t hurt. Suffering in luxury isn’t bad. However, aging doesn’t care about a net worth statement.

Denial of aging is real and one of Ivana Trump’s best money lessons for older Americans.

Who needs comprehensive studies to understand that denial of getting older is a reality? I see it in myself as I dramatically changed my diet and amped up my physical workouts years ago to fight or slow the inevitable.

Frankly, my graying hairline stresses me out. 

I engage with people regularly who aren’t ready to deal with how someday they may move slower, forget things often and work through periodic illness or injury. Older clients and their adult children have a tough time facing that mom and dad are grayer, smaller, and frailer than they used to be.

Per a July 2022 analysis from the Center for Retirement Research, older Americans and retirees poorly assess the risks they face in retirement. Health and longevity risks (the risk of living longer than expected and exhausting financial resources) are underestimated.

Per the study: Perceived longevity risk and health risk rank lower because retirees are pessimistic about their survival probabilities and often underestimate their health costs in late life.

I cannot tell you how many clients inform me how sure they are about dying early. How do they know? So, I always ask the following question –

“What if you don’t?”

Ivana Trump’s friends were concerned about her home’s beautiful but dangerous staircase. They were worried about her falling. She had an elevator and rarely used it. The stairs at her home were steep, the carpet was worn. Although she had trouble walking, she regularly took the stairs. She had the money to remove or replace the carpet; the elevator would have been perfect, but she rarely used it.

Why?

In her halcyon days, Ivana was New York royalty. Young, vibrant. She could accomplish anything. How can someone like that stare into the mirror and face vincibility? How can you? Can I? Acceptance is the first step to a rich life as we age, to feel comfortable in different but richer skins.

That acceptance opens the door to preparation – eating right, exercising regularly, and preparing for the risks of aging through comprehensive planning and open communication with family and friends.

If I deny aging, then I’ll force everyone around me to deny it too. Or, at the least, family members and friends will discuss issues concerning me behind my back. Who wants that? Older Americans must be open to listening.

This leads to my next financial lesson for older Americans from Ivana Trump.

Communication. Another one of the money lessons Ivana Trump has for older Americans.

I wonder how many times Ivana was advised (perhaps delicately) by Ivanka and the other kids to update her place for aging, move to a one-story, or take the damn elevator. Whatever it is, would Ivana listen or just carry on like it was the 1980s? In her mind, it may have been decades ago, but her aging body lived in the here and now.

There’s a nuance and empathy to communicating with older loved ones.

Remember, they were young like you once. Listen to your special older Americans. Never be condescending. A good idea may be to bring in an objective third party such as your financial advisor to assist with the discussions. I’ve witnessed adult children infantilize their parents, and that never works. Imagine approaching Ivana with that tone! Not good!

Remember, even mild cognitive impairment can drive a communication wedge between you, and your aging loved one. However, don’t give up sparking conversation. I work with clients who consistently need to nuance their speech with their parents. They get their points across eventually. Impaired older relatives eventually take action, but the process is like chipping away at an iceberg with a butter knife.

Don’t give up!

Genworth, a leader in long-term care insurance and research, maintains an impactful Conversation Starters page with helpful tips about what to talk about and how to maintain a dialogue. Check it out.

Use your financial plan to motivate others.

How can you discuss long-term care issues with loved ones if you’re personally in denial about aging? A risk mitigation plan as part of a comprehensive financial strategy validates your commitment to preparation. Actions forge your conversations with credibility.

According to AARP’s most recent Home and Community Preference Survey, 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes or age in place. The number has been consistent for over a decade. Aging in place requires planning – whether it’s to eventually downsize to a one-story home, renovate kitchen and baths or install easy access ramps for items of mobility such as wheelchairs. It would be worth practicing financial openness and sharing this information with aging parents. In other words, if you’re preparing for these expenses, they should be too.

Don’t forget long-term care insurance as one of Ivana Trump’s money lessons for older Americans.

Ivana didn’t need long-term care insurance. You probably need to consider it.

Unfortunately, nearly half of individuals who apply for traditional long-term care insurance after age 70 have their applications declined by an insurer, according to Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. However, loved ones in good health in their 50s and 60s can still consider long-term care insurance. The sweet spot for looking into long-term care coverage is generally between ages 55 and 65, per Jesse Slome.

Three out of every five financial plans I create reflect deficiencies in meeting long-term care expenses. Medical insurance like Medicare does not cover long-term care expenses – a common misperception. Nearly 60% of people surveyed in various studies falsely believe that Medicare covers long-term care expenses.

The Genworth Cost of Care Survey has been tracking long-term care costs across 440 regions across the United States since 2004.

Genworth’s results assume an annual 3% inflation rate. In today’s dollars, a home-health aide who assists with cleaning, cooking, and other responsibilities for those who seek to age in place or require temporary assistance with daily living activities can cost over $54,912 a year in the Houston area. We use a 4.25-4.5% inflation rate for financial planning purposes to reflect recent median annual costs for assisted living and nursing home care. Candidly, I fear that I’ll need to increase this inflation rate in 2023.

As I examine long-term care policies issued recently vs. those 10 years or later, it’s glaringly obvious that coverage isn’t as comprehensive, and costs are more prohibitive.

One option is to consider a reverse mortgage, specifically a home equity conversion mortgage. The horror stories about these products are overblown. The most astute planners and academics understand how incorporating the equity from a primary residence in a retirement income strategy can help with the burden of long-term care costs. Those who talk down these products are speaking out of lack of knowledge and falling easily for pervasive false narratives.

Reverse mortgages have several layers of costs (nothing like they were in the past), and it pays for consumers to shop around for the best deals. Also, to qualify for a reverse mortgage, the homeowner must be 62, the home must be a primary residence, and the debt limited to mortgage debt. There are several ways to receive payouts.

One of the smartest strategies is to establish a reverse mortgage line of credit at age 62, leave it untapped, and allow it to grow along with the home’s value. 

The line may be tapped for long-term care expenses if needed or to mitigate the sequence of poor return risk in portfolios. Simply, in years where portfolios are down, the reverse mortgage line is used for income while portfolios recover. Once assets recover, rebalancing proceeds or gains may be used to repay the reverse mortgage loan, restoring the line of credit.

RIA’s approach to helping older Americans age comfortably in place.

Our planning software allows our team to consider a reverse mortgage in the analysis. Those plans have a high probability of success. We explain that income is as necessary as water regarding retirement. For many retirees, converting the glacier of a home into the water of income using a reverse mortgage will be required for retirement survival and especially long-term care expenses.

Ivana Trump’s money lessons for older Americans are lessons for us all, regardless of age.

Planning to age gracefully and healthfully will lead to a prosperous retirement attitude.

As George Burns said: You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.

The longer I live, the more I realize how true that quote is.

The post Ivana Trump’s Money Lessons for Older Americans. appeared first on RIA.

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