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AARP Urges Congress to Include Older Adults in Disaster Prep Planning

Fallen Tree after storm
Dan Reynolds Photography/Getty Images

En español | When Hurricane Ian slammed Florida’s west coast in 2022, roughly two-thirds of those who died were 65 and older. Older adults were also more likely than younger residents to die in a spate of other natural disasters around the country in recent years, from wildfires in Northern California and Hawaii to the “Big Freeze” in Texas.

AARP wrote to federal lawmakers Dec. 13 in support of legislation that aims to address the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on the safety, health and economic well-being of older adults, including those with disabilities.

The REAADI (Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion) for Disasters Act would create a national commission to study and recommend best practices for including those populations in disaster preparedness planning at all levels of government.

It would also:

  • Create a national network of centers focused on training, technical assistance and research to help states and localities engage and support older and disabled adults during and after disasters.

  • Create a competitive grant program to pilot strategies for greater inclusion of older adults and people with disabilities in disaster planning, mitigation, response and recovery.

  • Direct the U.S. Department of Justice to review federal and state disaster fund spending to ensure it is in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to examine whether the civil rights of people with disabilities are upheld during and after disasters.

“Agencies and communities that possess a clear understanding of the unique needs of older adults in disaster events, including an understanding of the impact of extreme weather on the health and well-being of older adults, are better equipped to keep them safe,” Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs, wrote last month in letters to the bill’s House and Senate sponsors.

As natural disasters continue to occur with greater frequency, AARP has testified before Congress and worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in recent years to raise awareness about the impact on older adults and advocate for solutions. With FEMA, we created the AARP Disaster Resilience Toolkit, which provides resources to help government leaders and communities reduce the risks to older adults during extreme weather events.

And our state and U.S. territory offices have pushed for new disaster preparedness laws to protect older adults. For example, the U.S. Virgin Islands passed laws to help government officials assist elderly residents and their caregivers during hurricanes and other natural disasters, thanks in part to AARP’s advocacy.

Read our letters to House and Senate lawmakers and learn more about how to prepare for a natural disaster. Find more disaster prep resources on AARP’s Livable Communities page.

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