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5 Disaster Prep Tips for Older Americans

Emergency readiness information from

First aid kit, glasses, medication, and flashlight-Be prepared for an Emergency AARP Foundation

Your emergency kit should contain unique items your family needs, as well as food, water and filter masks. — Photo by Eric Bean/Getty Images

When disasters strike, it's important for people of all ages to have a plan of action.

But for older Americans, there can be different factors to keep in mind when responding to an emergency.

"As people age, their needs change and their capabilities change," says Vivian Vasallo, vice president of housing for AARP Foundation, which produced this video with "So in preparing for a disaster, it’s important to think differently than you might have at earlier ages.”

Here's what you need to do:

1. Identify the risks in the area where you live

Is your region prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, heat waves, drought or other natural disasters? Is your area a likely target of a terrorist attack? You’ll need different plans for different situations.

2. Make a plan

Have a family emergency plan in place ahead of time. Use the family emergency plan form on (PDF) to record contact information, Social Security numbers, medications, health conditions and health insurance information for all family members.

3. Create a support network

This is an especially important step for people with special needs. Your support network can include family, friends, neighbors, doctors, organizations or places where you worship. Make sure the people in your network know what your needs are in case of a disaster and are aware of which medicines you take and any physical limitations you may have. Your network should include both local and out-of-area contacts, and it's a good idea to become familiar with text messaging from your mobile phone or device. If phone lines are jammed and landline and cellphone calls are not possible after a disaster, texting gives you another option.

4. Prepare an emergency kit

Include enough water and nonperishable food to sustain each person for three days. Make sure you have medicines to last at least a week, and extra glasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries. If you can’t obtain an emergency supply, be sure to fill your prescriptions on the first day you’re eligible for a refill, rather than waiting for them to run out. Keep hard copies of documents such as birth certificates, insurance policies, Medicare cards and financial forms in your kit. You could also keep digital copies of your documents on a portable flash drive in the kit. Get the full list of supplies by downloading this instruction sheet from (PDF).

5. Ensure you’re in compliance with Social Security’s electronic payments policy

A new law went into effect March 1, 2013, requiring electronic payments. However, some people still haven’t signed up yet, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. To make the switch, call 1-800-333-1795 or visit

Also of Interest: Create the Good's Operation Hurricane Prepare. »

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BE PREPARED: Our needs change as we age, and how we prepare for emergencies needs to change, too.

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Older People And

Whether people 50+ own or rent, the repercussions from the recession are severe - abandoned neighborhoods, rent increases and a decrease in affordable, subsidized housing. Millions of homeowners can neither sell their homes nor receive approval to refinance their mortgages at today’s much lower interest rates. 



  • 19 million adults 50+ live in unaffordable or unsafe housing
  • Nearly 25% of household mortgages are underwater - meaning the mortgage is larger than the current value of the house.
  • Foreclosures have been at record levels.

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(Senior Housing News, April 1) - A Social Security Administration report indicates that housing expenses lead all others among those 50+, and that both the poorest and those at the lower end of the age spectrum are hit the hardest. Read

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(WCBS-TV, March 26) - Across the country, more than 100 developments feature small homes clustered around communal buildings, in some cases including communal kitchens; establishing ground rules for shared space is key. Read

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(NYT, Feb. 5) - A recent survey found, surprisingly, that 47 percent of workers between 50 and 70 plan to rely on the equity in their homes to finance their retirement despite the widespread loss in home values. They may have no other choice. Read