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5 Disaster Prep Tips for Older Americans

Emergency readiness information from

May 25 marks the beginning of Hurricane Preparedness Week. With another storm season looming, 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

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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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(Huffington Post, Dec. 2014) "Aging in place" will require a shift in the way our society thinks about the role of communities and the way services are delivered to individuals. Read

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(The Wall Street Journal, June 2014) - As the population grows older, engineers and health experts are searching for new ways to prevent elderly people from injuring themselves at home. In doing so, they hope to keep people in their homes longer, a concept known as aging in place. Read

Government Recalls Bed Rails After Reported Deaths

(AARP, May 2014) - The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced the voluntary recall of more than 100,000 adult bed rails that it says can pose a serious risk of entrapment, strangulation and death. Read