Disaster Preparedness for the Elderly

Caribbean countries are at risk to many types of disasters as a result of the impact of a variety of hazards such as: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides and fires. These disasters tend to have a greater impact on the elderly than any other demographic, as the proportion of people in this category, is rapidly increasing.

About 80% of the elderly have at least one chronic health condition e.g. diabetes (sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), arthritis, (weak joints), and heart disease. These often lead to disabilities and inability to perform basic activities of daily living such as bathing and eating. They require special diets and medicines, which are not always available during and immediately after a disaster.

Many experience problems with their mental health and with their daily ability to move about.

The elderly tend to experience declining vision and hearing, which makes it difficult for them to communicate.

Many elderly persons live in poverty and are not able to invest in measures to lessen their risk from a disaster, e.g. hurricane proofing their home.

All these conditions make it difficult to maintain their housing and prepare for a potential disaster. They experience difficulties evacuating their environment, protecting themselves and accessing services such as healthcare, water and food before, during and after a disaster. Illnesses and disabilities of the elderly can also worsen after a disaster.