206985 Disaster preparedness and older adults in a rural community: Triple jeopardy

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Elaine T. Jurkowski, MSW, PhD , School of Social Work, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL
Cherie Green, MSEd, MSW , S.P.I.N. (Supporting People in Need), Murphysburo, IL
Sonya Rapo, MSW , School of Social Work, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL
Disaster preparedness for older adults in rural communities poses challenges. The purpose of this study was to examine how this target population living in rural communities perceive disasters, and to what level are they prepared, in order to prepare a community based intervention to meet the needs.

Nine focus groups were conducted, along with a survey instrument (MEPS) examining perceptions of difficulty for preparedness in the areas of planning, utility, knowledge and supply. The sample (n=84) consisted of special populations characterized as low income, minority elderly, and were solicited as volunteers through a local rural thrift store, food bank ministry or not-for profit agency all participated in focus groups. Focus group questions solicited responses related to perceptions of disasters, perceptions of community's action in case of a disaster, barriers to preparation and knowledge about disasters and family disaster planning. Variables included demographics, perception of readiness and perception of difficulty for preparedness.

Respondents identified the top three types of disaster to include tornados, floods and earthquakes. Over half of the respondents did not have disaster kits prepared or available. More than one third of respondents (34.8%) felt that a disaster would not happen to them, while other barriers included time and finances. There was a significant difference between income level and having items to be prepared, including batteries and flashlights (F=3.56,df=3,p=.04).Older adults recognize and are aware that that they need specific provisions, however income, and the dynamics of a rural community plays pivotal roles in acquiring items necessary in preparation.

Learning Objectives:
A the end of this session, participants will: 1. Understand how older adults in rural communities face challenges in facilitating dister preparedness. 2. Be familier with the types of perceptions older adults in rural communities have about disaster preparedness. 3. Be aquainted with barriers to disaster preparedness for older adults living in rural communities.

Keywords: Disasters, Rural Communities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the lead academic partner on the grant which was used to investigate this topic and collect the data.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.