The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has received $185,000 from The New York Community Trust and $100,000 from Altman Foundation to launch an initiative to create improved supports for New York's community-dwelling older adults before, during, and after disasters and other mass, long-term events, like power outages and heat waves. During Hurricane Sandy, thousands of older adults were isolated in dark, unheated apartments without sufficient food, running water, or medical assistance; 24 of the 43 reported deaths in NYC were people over age 60. Many of the deaths and much of the suffering that occurred may have been prevented if adequate community-based supports had been in place.
To foster the creation of improved community-based response networks in New York City, the project will identify best practices, generate recommendations, and mobilize key partners to implement improved response plans that include:
•Effective risk communication for community-dwelling older adults and disabled individuals who are not in care facilities. It will address the specific challenges faced by this population as they weigh shelter-in-place and evacuation orders, including linguistic barriers, limited resources, isolation, vision and mobility impairments, and barriers to comprehension;
•Timely deployment of resources for individuals who are known to need attention and assistance during power outages (such as those with assistive medical devices and limited mobility);
•Timely identification and deployment of resources for individuals unconnected to social service and health care providers (such as otherwise independent people who become isolated, injured, or otherwise vulnerable due to the event or post-event conditions);
•Multi-sector and multi-agency coordination of volunteers and services for older adults before, during, and after emergency events.
The project will particularly address the resources available through non-governmental organizations and civic groups not typically activated in disaster preparedness and response, such as businesses, property management companies and landlords, and tenant and civic associations, as well as health and social service organizations. This broad community is playing an important role in helping older adults recover from Hurricane Sandy and could be better aligned in partnership with one another and with City agencies to develop an effective emergency response network that meets the needs of older adults.