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05 May 2022

Community focus can engage older people in climate change communications

The new research explores how best to engage the important and influential, but largely forgotten about, demographic.

Older people at climate change protest

Discussing climate change in relation to caring for others and working together to find solutions could strongly resonate with England’s older generation, a new paper in Frontiers in Communication explains.

Conducted by MA Climate Change: History, Culture, Society graduate, Briony Latter, the research brought over 65s together from across England to discuss narratives surrounding climate change. As the UK's population is getting older and over 65s are the demographic with the highest percentage of voters, the paper acknowledges the important role that older people could play in addressing climate change.

When discussing climate change, older people in the study felt it's important to bring communities together to create positive changes and there should be a big focus on protecting the environment.

There also needs to be more emphasis on who should take responsibility for climate change, and although there is disagreement across the age group about who is to blame and who should take action, some recognise their own power to make positive changes.

Overall, the research found that there are four key themes that older people find the most important when discussing climate change and how to address it. These were consideration and responsibility, community, power, and an international outlook.

Whilst there's rightly been a lot of focus on the younger generation in recent years, there's been much less attention on older people despite the important role they could play and the impacts that climate change will have on them. This means it’s imperative that we have a better understanding in how to engage this group when we talk about climate change.”

Briony Latter

Latter’s research was conducted as part of her MA dissertation and won King’s Best Thesis Award in 2018. She is currently a PhD researcher Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) at Cardiff University, where she works on public engagement as well as academic culture and practices in the context of the climate emergency.