Old Wisdom, Old Respect, Old Vulnerability
Old Wisdom, Old Respect, Old Vulnerability: 2014 is dedicated to the elderly around the world.

October 13th is the International Day for Disaster Reduction, where we celebrate how people and communities are reducing their disaster risk and raising awareness about the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction. It’s also a day for encouraging every citizen and every government to take part in building more disaster-resilient communities and nations, and raising awareness about the disproportionate impact on elderly people everywhere.



The theme for the 2014 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is the world’s ageing population. This is part of a Step Up initiative, started in 2011, which focuses on a different group of partners every year leading up to the World Conference for Disaster Reduction in 2015.

We talked to Jessica Hartog from HelpAge International, an organisation that helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.
Why do you think that it is important that the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is the ageing population?

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Our soaring population growth, in combination with improved healthcare, has resulted in a greater number of elderly people around the world, and disasters have a disproportionate impact on elderly people.

How are older people affected by natural disasters – what are their specific vulnerabilities and needs?

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The elderly are prone to poor health, reduced mobility, reduced sight and reduced hearing. How can they respond adequately when they cannot hear an early warning signal? Plus there is age discrimination, leading to a lack of communication.

What particular challenges do the elderly face in preparing for disasters?

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If there is a need to stockpile food, who will collect and carry it for those who can’t. If disaster strikes a farming community, herds need a fast herder. Also, in the case of evacuations, people often need to travel long distances.

How can they contribute to Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaptation?

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It is important for the potential contribution of the elderly to be taken into account, such as accumulated historical knowledge about early warning signs, how the community works and the impact of previous disasters. By excluding the elderly, we lose out on a lot of important information.

This story is part of the Disaster Resilience Journal. The Disaster Resilience Journal is an interactive documentary that examines how individuals, communities and countries around the world are building resilience in a landscape of climate change, and social, economic and cultural shifts. Discover the set of 42 stories, games, maps, interviews and quizzes that make up the Disaster Resilience Journal at: 





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