Preparedness for Natural Disasters Among Older US Adults: A Nationwide Survey
Tala M. Al-rousan, MD, Linda M. Rubenstein, PhD, and Robert B. Wallace, MD, MSc
Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health
March 1, 2014
The objective of this study was to determine natural disaster preparedness levels among older US adults and assess factors that may adversely affect health and safety during such incidents.
Methods. Adults aged 50 years or older (n = 1304) were sampled from the 2010 interview survey of the Health and Retirement Study. The survey gathered data on general demographic characteristics, disability status or functional limitations, and preparedness-related factors and behaviors. A general disaster preparedness score was calculated by using individual indicators to assess overall preparedness.
Results. Participant (n = 1304) mean age was 70 years (SD = 9.3). Only 34.3% reported participating in an educational program or reading materials about disaster preparation. Nearly 15% reported using electrically powered medical devices that might be at risk in a power outage. The preparedness score indicated that increasing age, physical disability, and lower educational attainment and income were independently and significantly associated with worse overall preparedness.
Conclusions. Despite both greater vulnerability to disasters and continuous growth in the number of older US adults, many of the substantial problems discovered are remediable and require attention in the clinical, public health, and emergency management sectors of society.