Ngo, Ehren B. When Disasters and Age Collide: Reviewing Vulnerability of the Elderly. Natural Hazards Review. Vol 2(2) pp. 80-89, 2001. ( 5/2001 )
Natural disasters are a growing threat to human populations, particularly to vulnerable groups such as the elderly. A review of the literature on how the elderly respond in disasters indicates there are patterns of vulnerability in the social, psychological, and physiological dimensions. Research studies from sociology, psychology, and medicine, examining disaster loss and harm as it relates to age, form the basis for the differential vulnerability reviewed within this paper. Differential vulnerability between elderly and nonelderly disaster victims is summarized and discussed in the following areas: actual loss versus relative need, the perception of loss, service stigma and threats to independence, psychological vulnerability, and morbidity and mortality. Minimizing the disaster vulnerability of the elderly requires a solid understanding of the specific needs and traits of the elderly population, and identification of the risk factors that lead to their vulnerability. Effective disaster policies and programs will specifically target the elderly population, establish strong connections between the elderly and available resources, and evaluate the efforts to ensure that vulnerabilities are being modified.