Disasters can happen to anyone, anytime. But some people are more in danger of being harmed by disasters. According to a recent study, our older family and friends may be the most at risk.
The study, published in APHA’s American Journal of Public Health, finds that more than two-thirds of older Americans don’t have an emergency plan for natural disasters. It also finds that more than one-third do not have a basic supply of food, water and medical supplies stored for an emergency.
APHA’s news blog, Public Health Newswire, spoke with researcher Tala Al-rousan recently about the study. Al-rousan says that older adults are more likely to live alone, which can be dangerous during disasters. Disasters can make it hard for seniors to reach working phones, electricity, transportation or friends or family that can help them.
“Some use mobility devices that need electricity,” Al-rousan says. “Others cannot hear warning sirens. Older adults are more prone to suffer the consequences of extreme temperatures or noisy crowded shelters. Their chronic conditions are worsened by these weather changes more than younger people.”
So what can we do for older adults around us that might need more help? The community is a great place to start.
“Trained local leaders, health coaches, “block captains” and other residents from the community who are able to identify, reach older adults and help them prepare and respond to emergencies are examples that proved valuable,” Al-rousan says.
The American Red Cross encourages seniors to take steps to ensure their own safety, recommending that they develop a personal support network. According to the organization, seniors should:
- Determine before a disaster who you can rely on for help. Give them spare keys and show them where you keep your emergency supplies and records.
- Agree on how you’ll contact each other in an emergency, especially if phones aren’t working.
- Notify each other when you’re going out of town and when you will return.
Check out this fact sheet from APHA’s Get Ready campaign for preparedness tips for older adults and their caregivers for more information.