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Older people as assets in disaster preparedness, response and recovery: lessons from regional Australia


This article reports on findings from a qualitative research study on natural disaster preparedness in ‘at risk’ population groups in regional Australia, and in particular on findings highlighting the key, and often unrecognised, role played by many older people in developing and maintaining local informal networks, activated repeatedly before, during and after natural disasters. The article outlines major themes in recent literature on community resilience and social capital in disaster preparedness, response and recovery, the design and implementation of the current study in which, 17 focus groups were held with ‘at risk’ groups across three communities and findings in relation to the role of older people. The implications from these findings are discussed in the context of community-based disaster preparedness strategies. Findings point to older people as critical, community assets in local neighbourhoods, contributing both their experience and relationship-building capacity to prepare themselves for natural disasters. In addition, there was clear evidence of older people sharing resources and experience in support of others of all ages in responding to and recovering from natural disasters. Older people in the research were found both to generate and mobilise social capital at a local level in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Amanda Howard, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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