Disasters and Older People


Globally the senior members of our communities usually feature highly in the death and injury statistics that arise from disasters. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Head, Margareta Wahlström, stated in 2014:

‘The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event. Demographic change means we are living in an ageing world. It is important to include older persons in disaster management for both their improved protection and to make full use of their experience, skills and knowledge in support of that’. (UNISDR, 2014).

The seniors who are most vulnerable are those individuals who are particularly at risk of not surviving the disaster impact due to existing medical conditions and/or lack of safe refuge. Ongoing survival and recovery can be hampered by poor physical, psychological and social health conditions. Vulnerable seniors will have the need for extra support over that offered to the non-vulnerable before, during, and after a disaster incident, in functional areas, including but not limited to: maintaining independence, communication, housing, transportation, supervision and medical care.

It is also important to acknowledge that many seniors are fully able to take all-necessary measures to prepare for, survive and recover from a disaster event. Seniors are also actively involved in assisting in various capacities to help others in a time of need.

Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) held in March 2015 agreed on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Guiding Principle 36 (a) (iv) of the Framework underlined the importance of the involvement of seniors in disaster management: ‘Older persons have years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which are invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk, and they should be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning’.

Abstract Overview

The IFA 13th Global Conference on Ageing, to-date, has received a broad range of Disaster related papers from countries, including the United States, Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia. The papers explore the problems faced by older adults in preparing for and surviving disasters across the world.

Topics being canvassed include:

  • Post Sendai: Engaging and enlisting older people in disaster risk reduction at community level
  • Adult immunisation and disease reduction
  • Human Security and Resilience
  • Disaster experiences and learnings from around the world
  • Health, social and economic implications of disasters for the aged

Speaker Highlight

 Lisa Brown  

Ready or not: lessons learned from older people’s experiences of disasters to guide the development of new approaches to preparedness

Professor Lisa Brown’s clinical and research focus is on trauma and resilience, ageing, health, vulnerable populations, disasters, and long-term care. This Symposium will present the results of four studies conducted in New Zealand and the United States that examined older people’s experiences of disasters.

 Jennifer Campbell  

Older Adults and Disasters: Community Resilience, Philanthropy and Creating Age-Friendly Communities

Dr Jennifer Campbell, Ph.D., was Director of the Hurricane Fund for the Elderly (HFE), an initiative of Grantmakers In Aging (GIA) with the goal of re-establishing older adult services after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She will present this Symposium with Ms Lindsay Goldman (New York Academy of Medicine), Ms Gail Kohn (DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services), Mr John Stalker (COTA Queensland) and Dr Jeffrey Stiefel (US Department of Homeland Security).

 Junk Otani  

Social Isolation Among Older Adults Following Natural Disasters: Comparative International Experiences

Professor Junko Otani, DDS, MPH, MS, PhD, is a Professor in the Graduate School of Human Sciences at Osaka University. This Symposium will compare social isolation among older adults following natural disasters in New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan.

Please note the program is subject to change.

Call for Action

Register today and don’t miss your opportunity to meet experts and like-minded individuals at the IFA 13th Global Conference on Ageing.

The IFA 13th Global Conference on Ageing welcomes further oral, poster, symposium or workshop abstracts that address Disasters and Older People.


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Key Dates

Call for Late Abstracts
Now Open
Now Open
Author registration deadline (First Call for Abstracts)
Saturday 30 January 2016
Author registration deadline (Late Call for Abstracts)
Tuesday 22 March 2016
Early bird registration deadline
Tuesday 22 March 2016
Conference dates
Tuesday 21 - Thursday 23 June 2016

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