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UNO Research Addresses Needs of Elderly During Evacuation

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Under the leadership of Dr. Pamela Jenkins, Professor of Sociology, The University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (UNO-CHART) has been conducting applied research on elderly evacuation.

The effort has been undertaken in conjunction with the elderly themselves and elderly stakeholders in local Louisiana non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government offices within the Southeastern Louisiana region.

Many of the concerns that you are hearing today about the elderly and the measures taken to address their safety come from these efforts, said Dr. Shirley Laska, director of UNO-CHART. Below is a list of findings from the research. The list was recently received positively by the NGOs working in the earthquake-ravaged province of Chengdu, China. The information was translated into Chinese.

Elderly Victims and Evacuees

Source of the following findings are from national (U.S.) literature review refined by elderly and elderly stakeholders after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans over a two-year (and continuing) project.

1. Most elderly find evacuation extremely challenging.
2. The elderly, in interviews and focus groups, stated that they want to know where they are being taken.
3. Some of the elderly may be disoriented and unable to make appropriate decisions during evacuation.
4. The elderly should have at least one significant other (family member, friend) accompany them if they are evacuated separated from the community residents.
5. Planners must consider that some elderly are caretakers of children and that they should not be separated from these children (or grandchildren).
6. Often the elderly will not have personal resources with them nor any way to acquire them.
7. Elderly will want to remain in their home community or return to it quickly due to the degree of attachment, familiarity of surroundings, and functionality.
8. The stress of evacuation will exacerbate chronic illnesses and lead to the likelihood of increased deaths of elderly evacuees over year(s) after the event even when evacuation is successfully completed.
9. If possible, the return of the elderly to familiar surroundings permits greater likelihood of continued independence.

Additional questions can be directed to Laska at (504) 616-3846.

UNO-CHART, now in its seventh year of operation, is an applied research center that works collaboratively with Louisiana communities to reduce risk from natural disasters. CHART has implemented numerous projects and served as a training ground for 46 graduate research assistants.

By University of New Orleans

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