Seniors particularly vulnerable in Sandy's aftermath

October 31, 2012

Older adults left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy will likely suffer disproportionately in the days ahead, based on data from other recent natural disasters.

For example, three quarters of those who perished in were over the age of 60, according to the spring 2006 edition of Public Policy & Aging Report from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Similarly, a recent issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences reported that the May 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan, China, was associated with a twofold increase in the one-year mortality among a group of residents in their 90s that lived nearby.

"Right now, most people who are responding to the hurricane are not trained in the needs of older adults," said Lisa M. Brown, PhD, a co-convener of GSA's Disasters and Older Adults Interest Group and an associate professor at the University of South Florida. "Likewise, very few geriatricians and gerontologists are trained in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery."

The interest group will next meet during GSA's upcoming Annual Scientific Meeting, which will take place from November 14 to 18 in San Diego. Brown leads the group with fellow GSA member and co-convener Maggie Gibson, PhD, of St. Joseph's Health Care London in Ontario, Canada.

The two also will chair a symposium, "Older Adults and Disasters: Are Gerontologists Paying Attention?" in San Diego. During this session, expert presenters will discuss the social, mental, and physical health concerns of older adults at all stages of a disaster and explain the critical role of gerontologists in shaping public health preparedness and responsiveness to disasters. They will also identify why older adults remain unusually vulnerable, relative to children and younger adults, during catastrophic events.

"We don't have continuity in the disaster infrastructure for . Our efforts tend to be more reactive post-disaster than proactive pre-disaster," Brown said. "More research in this area will result in targeted policies and refined programs that would enhance existing systems of care."

There also is a growing field of literature that outlines necessary steps for elder disaster preparedness in the face of an emergency. The & Aging Report demonstrated that multi-tiered evacuation plans, pre-existing social networks, and "go-kits" can be used to assist elders at critical moments. These kits may include detailed contact information for family members; contact information for relevant health care providers; high-nutrient foods; and a week's supply of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, including a list of medications, the required dosage, and times of administration.

Explore further: Helping the aged during natural disasters

Related Stories

Helping the aged during natural disasters

June 3, 2011
When earthquake, tsunami, tornado or flood strike, among the most vulnerable group are the elderly. Writing in the International Journal of Emergency Management, researchers in New Zealand suggest that emergency response ...

New guide helps providers make effective connection with senior patients

October 15, 2012
"Communicating With Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works," the latest report from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), provides 40 pages of recommended guidelines for health care providers interacting ...

New GSA resources lay foundation for relieving seniors' pain

January 31, 2012
The pain suffered by older adults is the shared focus of the two newest entries in The Gerontological Society of America's (GSA) From Publication to Practice series. Together they address both pain management and new labeling ...

Effective pain management crucial to older adults' well-being

April 11, 2011
Improved management of chronic pain can significantly reduce disability in older adults, according to the latest issue of the WHAT'S HOT newsletter from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

New report highlights LGBT older adults' needs, identifies policy opportunities

November 16, 2011
The National Academy on an Aging Society and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) today released the first-ever issue of the acclaimed Public Policy & Aging Report (PPAR) on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.