USF looks at ways to help older Americans overcome obstacles during hurricanes | ABC News WFTS Tampa Bay
Older adults are at a higher risk during a hurricane, and that is for a number of reasons. Now, the University of South Florida is looking into ways to increase protections for those people during a potential storm.
“After disasters, we always see that the number of people that die and wind up in the hospitals they are more likely to be older adults," Lindsay Peterson, a research assistant professor at the USF, said.
Peterson explains older adults are at higher risk because they may have physical disabilities that make it harder to evacuate.
"When it comes time to evacuate, you can very often take care of yourself. You can jump in your car and go. If it gets to be so bad that water is coming in your house, you can wade out or swim out. Someone that’s older is not necessarily going to be able to do that and that’s because they might be more likely to have a disability,” Peterson said.
Whether it's a disability, lack of transportation, or not enough information, she said older adults have a lot more to think about when preparing to evacuate. Peterson said they're at a high risk for injury if they do not evacuate.
Eugene Valentine with American House said leaving home is destabilizing for his residents.
"They get nervous about what’s new, where are they going, what’s it going to be like are they going to be away from family,” Valentine said.
He explained there's a plan in place and evacuation protocols for people who live in nursing homes or assisted living.
"It is extremely detailed. We work with the county management office. It ends up being a large booklet of everything,” Valentine said.
He explained his staff handles the residents' medications, transportation, and lodging. Older adults that live alone in the community do not have the same kind of help.
That is why Peterson said she's working on a preparedness guide and video series to help those people prepare for a potential storm. She's also looking into ways to provide a higher level of protection for those people.
"The other thing that we might need to do is increase the emphasis of the service providers on helping the people they work with to have a disaster plan to figure out whether they need to evacuate or shelter in place if they can where they are going to evacuate," Peterson said.
She said being prepared with transportation, medication, and a place to stay makes a huge difference when it comes time for older adults to evacuate. Peterson is also working to create an app to help them with the decision of whether to evacuate or shelter in place.
Peterson explained a lack of transportation is a major reason older adults decide to stay put rather than evacuate.
The Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management said there are ways to pre-register for transportation.
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