Mapping the vulnerability of older persons to disasters

Int J Older People Nurs. 2010 Mar;5(1):63-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-3743.2009.00205.x.


Older people sit at the centre of a unique constellation of factors that combine to increase their vulnerability to the negative effects of catastrophic events. The aim of this paper is to explore some of the factors that underlie this vulnerability. Attention will be directed at three broad factors that will be discussed in some depth, namely poverty, long standing health conditions and psychological trauma. The aim is not, however, to provide a comprehensive systematic review of existing research evidence regarding the older person and disasters. This is due in part to the paucity of studies that take as their primary focus the older population and disasters. Whilst poverty, chronic illness and psychological issues are discussed in this paper as separate issues, they are interconnected. A map of the synergies between factors is presented that places the older person at the centre of a network of vulnerabilities. Recommendations for strategic planning and clinical practice are made that address this complex problem. The hope is that with insightful preparation the older population can be spared then worse consequences of a disaster when it strikes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / nursing*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Disaster Planning / methods*
  • Geriatric Nursing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Nursing
  • Poverty
  • Risk Factors