Researchers Highlight Social Needs of Elderly in Disaster Response Plans

Worldwide emergency response plans for natural disasters must account for the age-related needs of older adults, according to a new study in the International Journal of Emergency Management. The researchers wrote that in addition to elderly citizens’ disabilities, specific social circumstances—such as isolation—make them particularly vulnerable during a disaster.

“In a disaster situation, the interaction of personal and social vulnerability will influence the ability of older adults to prepare, respond to and recover from such an event,” the researchers wrote. “A disaster will amplify both personal and social challenges facing older adults, and as a result older adults become more vulnerable to experiencing negative outcomes during disasters.”

Researchers evaluated case studies of older adults who experienced a flood disaster and compared those experiences among those living in an institutional setting or independently in the community. They noted that global demographics necessitate more attention in this area, with an almost threefold increase in the world’s population over 65 expected within the next half century.

Researchers pointed out that following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there were disproportionately poorer outcomes for older adults compared to other population groups; the Indonesian tsunami of 2004 saw the highest death rates among those over 60 years old; deaths during the 2003 Paris heat wave killed more people over 70 years than any other group; and more than half of all casualties during the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan were older adults.

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