Natural disasters are dangerous for everyone, but they can, in particular, affect adults over the age of 65. This is particularly pressing when it comes to Florida, which has the highest percentage of seniors per state in the country. How do hurricanes and natural disasters in Jacksonville, FL, affect adults over the age of 65? We take a look here. Understanding the unique challenges faced by this age group can help encourage resilience and better planning in the face of natural disasters.
Adults over the age of 65 are valuable members of the community, volunteering their time, contributing their expertise, and investing in civic efforts. Unfortunately, they also represent the largest share of deaths when it comes to natural disasters such as hurricanes. Those who do survive such disasters might also be affected by long-lasting effects on their well-being and health.
It is also important to note that this age group is not homogenous. Factors such as education, disability, health status, class, and race can affect daily life. Adults in their sixties will also have different needs than those in their nineties; on average, the latter will be more vulnerable than the former when it comes to natural disasters. Other factors that could compound the challenges faced by older adults during natural disasters include:
- Mobility, cognition or sensory impairment
- Physical and mental health challenges
- Uneven access to resources (income, savings, internet access and more)
- Limited social networks, which might mean less (or no) assistance during challenging times
Some tangible ways that the factors discussed above can manifest are through barriers to evacuation. For instance, an individual who is unable to drive and does not have family or friends who might be able to help them evacuate will be particularly vulnerable in the face of a hurricane. Many individuals above the age of 65 do not have access to public transportation. They might also have to depend on home-based medical equipment, accessibility support, or be unable to bring their pets with them during evacuation. Others might also be caregivers themselves, which presents extra challenges when it comes to evacuating.
There are also other difficulties that this age group may face after a natural disaster, or when it comes to planning for the aftermath of one. They may not be financially able to relocate, and relocation itself might mean that they lose their surrounding social and medical support. In the aftermath, financial difficulties and complicated administration processes when it comes to applying for support can compound the mental strain of undergoing a natural disaster. Preparatory measures can reduce or mitigate the risk of natural disasters, and these may include:
- Stockpiling food and medicine
- Obtaining insurance
- Creating a “natural disaster” kit
However, even the above can be difficult for those who may be constrained by finances, accessibility, or health issues.
A Community Effort
Helping adults aged over 65 weather natural disasters takes a community’s effort. From better urban planning that encourages accessibility to ensuring that assisted living communities are built in safe locations, the community must do its part to keep this age group safe during natural disasters. Find out more in FEMA’s guide to expanding mitigation for natural disasters.