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We Can Do Better: Lessons Learned for Protecting Older Persons in Disasters

In an effort to identify lessons learned in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to share promising practices, AARP convened a diverse group of more than 100 government officials at federal, state and local levels; emergency preparedness and response experts; relief organizations, and aging and disability advocates in Washington, DC, on December 1st, 2005. All of the panelists were “people who had been there.” The goal of the conference was to bring the right stakeholders together to explore workable strategies for the future to better protect older persons in both the community and in nursing homes.

Highlights from the AARP conference and an extensive literature review, plus data from a short survey of persons age 50 and older conducted by Harris Interactive for AARP in November 2005, are presented in this AARP Public Policy Institute report which addresses three major topics as they relate to older persons:

  • planning and communications
  • identifying who will need help and kind of help needed, such as registries, tracking, and medications
  • evacuating older persons, including transportation and “special needs” shelters

These topics span the preparedness and response phases of disaster events. The recovery phase of disasters, while critically important and currently under public scrutiny in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast, is beyond the scope of this report.

Hard copies of the full report and of the separate summary are available free of charge. Please send a request to Tish Williams,, and ask for the Katrina report. Be sure to include your full address.