Improving disaster preparedness of older adults living in the community

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Tuohy, R.J. 2010 Improving disaster preparedness of older adults living in the community Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2010/07 20 p.

Abstract: Older adults experience more negative impacts resulting from a disaster event compared to other age groups. They are vulnerable prior to a disaster by nature of their age-related health needs and the influence of social conditions, which can have an effect on preparedness to a disaster. Part One of this report reviews international research literature on personal and social vulnerability that can have an impact on older adults in a disaster. Impaired physical mobility, diminished sensory awareness, cognitive decline, and chronic health conditions can all influence the preparedness of older adults. Reduced levels of social connectedness and social support, social inequality and socio-cultural factors can also influence preparedness to a disaster. Part Two of this report describes research on a New Zealand flood disaster based on narrative interviews with four rest home participants and five participants living independently in rental flats who experienced the Kaitaia flood disaster in 2007. Findings suggest that both personal and social vulnerability influenced the rental flat participants’ preparedness to the disaster. The rental flat participants had reduced access to social, practical and material resources, which had an impact on their level of preparedness to the disaster. In comparison, the rest home residents had higher levels of preparedness, as they were an easily visible population by nature of their institutional location and their dependency on others. Findings from the rest home narratives showed that although the residents had high personal vulnerability because of their frailty, they were not socially vulnerable because of their institutional location, which offered protection, ongoing care and trust in others charged with their wellbeing. The research findings have highlighted the need for a community vulnerability profile of older adults, which could be used as a collaborative resource for health, welfare and emergency management agencies to promote disaster preparedness. (auth)