Report: Emergency-planning efforts for frail elderly need greater emphasis

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Future emergency planning efforts must take into account shifting demographics, particularly the growing number of frail elderly people, according to a new report.

Citing recent heat waves in France and Greece, and the devastating U.S. hurricane season of 2005, which disproportionately killed older, frail Americans, researchers at both the University of Tennessee and Northern Michigan University say it is time to identify and consider the unique needs of the frail elderly in emergency situations. "Frail elderly" is a term for an adult "over the age of 60 suffering from the effects of physical, mental, and sensory deterioration due to age and chronic diseases," say report authors. By identifying frail elderly populations, emergency-planning efforts can begin to understand which populations are more at risk during and after an emergency.

The World Health Organization declared in 2008 that the primary goal of emergency management teams should be to aid the elderly in the event of a disaster. Report authors suggest that age-responsive measures be taken in addition to the more traditional emergency response actions. The report appears in the latest issue of the International Journal of Emergency Management.