Japanese tsunami underscores need for elder disaster preparedness

Mar 18, 2011

The oldest segment of Japan's population will likely be the hardest hit as a result of the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami, based on data from previous catastrophic events. Approximately 23 percent of Japanese citizens currently are age 65 and above.

"Japan's — with the highest proportion of older people in any country — gives us an indicator of where the world as a whole is headed," said James Appleby, RPh, MPH, executive director of The Gerontological Society of America. "The significance of this demographic shift and the severity of the tsunami's effects are highlighted by the numerous reports showing that seniors suffer disproportionately during natural disasters."

For example, the May 12, 2008, in Wenchuan, China, was associated with a twofold increase in the one-year mortality among a group of nonagenarians that lived nearby, according to a study published in March 2011 issue of The Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences.

Similarly, the spring 2006 edition of Public Policy & Aging Report, reported that three quarters of those who perished in Hurricane Katrina were over the age of 60.

"Our thoughts are with the people of as this time. Many people have limited access to food and water, and there is concern that lifesaving medicines could soon be in short supply. A number of the tragic news stories we see call attention to the needs of older people and other at-risk populations," Appleby said.

There also is a growing field of literature that outlines necessary steps for elder disaster preparedness in the face of an emergency. The Public Policy & Aging Report demonstrated that geographic information systems are able to map patterns of vulnerability in advance, allowing policymakers and first-responders to intervene both effectively and efficiently when disaster strikes.

Additionally, multi-tiered evacuation plans, pre-existing social networks, and "go-kits" can be used to assist elders at critical moments. These kits may include detailed contact information for family members; contact information for relevant health care providers; high-nutrient foods; and a week's supply of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, including a list of medications, the required dosage, and times of administration.

Explore further: Leave the car at home for a healthier daily commute, say experts

Provided by The Gerontological Society of America

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are you medically prepared for a natural disaster?

Jan 11, 2011

Imagine having to evacuate your home quickly as 60 mph winds shatter your windows, water crawls under your front door and the electricity cuts leaving your house as dark as the inside of a coffee can. Would ...

Research finds America's elderly suffering abuse

Aug 22, 2008

A new study concludes that nearly 13 percent of America's aged citizens suffer some form of abuse. Specifically, nine percent of adults reported they have suffered from verbal mistreatment, 3.5 percent suffer financial mistreatment, ...

Older adults at high risk for drug interactions

Dec 23, 2008

At least one in 25 older adults, about 2.2 million people in the United States, take multiple drugs in combinations that can produce a harmful drug-drug interaction, and half of these interactions involve a non-prescription ...

Recommended for you

Pica in pregnant teens linked to low iron

2 hours ago

In a study of 158 pregnant teenagers in Rochester, NY, nearly half engaged in pica – the craving and intentional consumption of ice, cornstarch, vacuum dust, baby powder and soap, and other nonfood items, reports a new ...

User comments : 0