Elderly Persons and Coping With DisastersGeneral Public Image - Elders

Coping refers to the process of not merely surviving a disaster, but managing and making meaning of it in a way that allows us not merely to survive but to grow.  Coping is a process that each person moves through differently, and it may also be a process that is somewhat different for elderly persons than for younger ones.  Here are some things to keep in mind about coping as it relates to disasters: 

  • Remember that what you are feeling and how you are behaving is normal under the circumstances.   Be patient with yourself in your journey toward healing from the disaster and its consequences. 
  • Physical reactions to a disaster are normal.  These reactions, known as stress are good because they help us function effectively in the urgency of the disaster.  It is only when the stress lingers and grows after the disaster, something known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that there is more concern.  
  • Acknowledging feelings is important in recovery.  Many elderly persons have learned not to complain and to be private in their experience.  Speaking about your experience, though, can help you in your healing.  Sharing your experiences with other disaster victims can help you to understand that you are not alone.
  • Asking for what you need often helps in healing, too.  It is not “selfish,” for example, to ask for a blanket or for water or for a shoulder to cry on.  It is also healthy and appropriate to ask for and accept help from community programs.  Older adults should be encouraged to ask for any type of help needed, such as financial, emotional, and medical assistance. Many of you have spent your lifetimes in the service of others, and disasters are times to let others be of service to you. 
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities will help.  This process, known as resilience, is important in disaster recovery.   What qualities do you, and maybe only you, possess and bring to the disaster experience? Becoming involved in the disaster recovery process and helping others to heal can be beneficial to the older adults own recovery.
  • You each recover and heal at your own pace.  Again, be patient with yourself.

Older adults are a generation of survivors and with the proper support will become even stronger and more capable of facing future challenges.

Some of this fact sheet is excerpted from this site.

This 1-page article provided by SAMHSA titled A Guide For Older Adults explains what can help the elderly during and after a disaster.