Older adults’ disaster lifecycle experience of the 2011 and 2013 Queensland floods
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Recent events such as the Victorian Bushfires (2009), the Haitian earthquake (2010), the Christchurch earthquake (2011), and more recently the South Indian floods (2015), have focused international policy, academic, and community attention on the challenges associated with disasters and severe weather events (SWE), specifically the four key phases of the disaster lifecycle: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Yet, to date, very little is known about how older people (amongst the most frail and vulnerable community members) manage during and after such disasters. This qualitative research addresses this knowledge gap, using the disaster lifecycle as an analytical framework to explore ten older residents’ experiences of the 2011 and 2013 floods in Queensland, Australia. In semi-structured interviews, these older residents (average age 73 years) described a very high level of personal responsibility in terms of flood preparedness and a matter of fact approach to the recovery and re-build process. Many had lived through multiple floods (1955, 1974, 2011 and 2013) and were just beginning to acknowledge how ageing, specifically their increasing frailty, was changing and impacting their ability to prepare, respond to and recover from a SWE. These older residents also identified societal and technological changes in disaster preparedness, explaining how notification and practical support had changed significantly in their lifetime evolving from being a “chat to a text, friends to friendly strangers”. With predictions that one in four Australians will be older than 65 years by 2050, this research emphases the value of utilising the disaster lifecycle framework to better understand and integrate the age-specific needs of this growing proportion of the population into future disaster policy planning.
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