Aging and Disasters: Facing Natural and Other Disasters

In Ethics, Aging, and Society: The Critical Turn. Springer Publishing. pp. 255-279 (2011)
“Aging and Disasters,” is an effort to tell a consistent and compelling story about the elderly amidst catastrophic disaster, and to then develop an ethical analysis and practical strategy for addressing the unique situation of the elderly. In the first portion of the chapter I make the case that the elderly are routinely overlooked amidst catastrophic disasters, and thereby often suffer disproportionately relative to the general population. More than being just a vulnerable population of people, the elderly are susceptible to additional and compound harms. A failure to recognize the special needs of the elderly population will consistently lead to their marginalization in disaster response efforts. Therefore, in the second section of the chapter, I emphasize our ethical obligations to (1) responsible planning prior to a disaster taking place and also to (2) promoting and maintaining effective communication and collaboration both in planning for and responding to a major disaster as two elements of an approach that seeks to address the particularity of the elderly relative to major disasters. To further specify and make meaningful these broad commitments, I introduce an ethics of place holding, arising out of work by Hilde Lindemann and Iris Marion Young, as an important framework for analysis and assessment. In the final portion of the chapter, I offer some concrete recommendations for a renewed approach to disaster planning and response that is conscious of the elderly amidst catastrophic disasters.
Keywords disaster ethics  applied ethics  elderly  aging  care
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