By year 2060, age group of 65 years and older is expected to more than double to 98 million people. Older adults are more likely than the younger population to have chronic illnesses; functional limitations; and physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities. As people age, it is common to have declines in mobility. Three in four Americans aged 65 and older have multiple chronic conditions. Those who are 65 years of age and older are disproportionately affected in emergencies. A disaster could cause the disruption of services, such as meal delivery and care-giving assistance.1
A survey was conducted with older adults about their preparedness level, Preparedness for Natural Disasters among Older U.S. Adults: A Nationwide Survey and about two thirds of older adults have no emergency plan. Of those two thirds of older adults, they have never participated in disaster preparedness educational program. Also, they are not aware of any relevant ressources.1
Noteworthy Practice from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Access and Functional Needs Toolkit Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies for Older Adults:2
- The success of emergency or disaster communications depends in large part on the ability of individuals to take informed, life-saving action. Health literacy is the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand basic health insurance information and services needed to make an appropriate health decision.
- The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) summarized the health literacy skills of older adults follows:
- 71% of adults older than the age of 60 had difficulty reading print materials.
- 80% had difficulty using forms or reading charts.
- 68% had difficulty interpreting numbers and doing calculations.
- The findings imply that verbally communicating health information might be most effective for this population. All adults, regardless of their health literacy skill, were more likely to get health information from radio, TV, friends, family, and health professionals rather than print materials.
Key Considerations for communication planning for older adults from CDC’s Access and Functional Needs Toolkit Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies:1
- Develop a range of communication methods to reach older adults.
- Educate the public on the importance of reaching out to family and neighbors during emergencies, particularly older adults who are living alone and have chronic conditions.
- Engage partners who serve older adults, including those who live in assisted living and those who live alone, in the communication planning process.
- Ensure health communication messaging for older adults is accessible, actionable, and understandable.
- Develop training and educational programs to ensure that older adults in the community and their families or caregivers know how to prepare and stay safe in emergency.
Resources for Older Adults
- Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults and People with Disabilities in Connecticut
- Connecticut’s Department of Aging and Disability Services has information and links for how elderly people with and without disabilities can prepare and manage during a disaster.
- Tips for the Elderly (Seniors)
- The Connecticut Department of Public Health has a disaster checklist for the elderly (seniors) on what to pack for an emergency. It includes supplies, medical supplies, and other sample scenarios that could help seniors prepare.
- Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults
- The American Red Cross has a website for older adults that is sectioned into before, during and after disasters to help older adults get through each phase of a disaster.
- Disaster Preparedness For Seniors By Seniors
- This guide published by the American Red Cross was written be a group of seniors who had experienced a two-week power outage and were unprepared for the event. They include information that would have helped them prepare for the power outage during a massive ice storm.
- Disaster Preparedness Planning for Older Adults
- The Public Health Emergency website created by the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has multiple resources listed for seniors and elders to use when preparing for a disaster.
- Seniors – Disasters and Emergencies
- Ready.gov has a page for seniors with tips for getting informed, making a plan, and other resources to prepare for a disaster.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging
- The CDC has a page for Alzheimer's Disease and Healthy Aging about creating a plan and creating an emergency supply kit.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Access and Functional Needs Toolkit: Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2008). America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information. https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/health-literacy/dhhs-2008-issue-brief.pdf.