To the rescue!

Four men with orange lifejackets are standing in a yellow State Emergency Service boat on a swollen river.The ageing of the population is often talked about in catastrophic terms, but when it comes to actual catastrophes, the needs of older people are not always considered. And it is not just physical needs – fears and anxieties can make older people resistant to rescue. Australia is not immune from major disasters. We have experienced several extreme weather events this summer as well as bush fires. Fortunately we have good disaster systems ready to cope – but there is always room for improvement. A recent study shows that even in developed countries, such as Japan, older people are more likely to die in a disaster than younger people. In the tsunami of 2011, 56 per cent of those who died were 65 and over, despite this group comprising 23 per cent of the population. HelpAge International’s findings on older people and disasters are reported in Disaster Resilience in an Ageing World. Anyone involved in disaster relief or emergency service might want to check their policies and response systems for the inclusion of older people and their needs in disasters and emergency situations. There is a related article in the International Journal of Emergency Management – Recognising and promoting the unique capacities of the elderly. It also discusses how older people are at greater risk in major disasters. 

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