During emergencies, older people are particularly vulnerable to injury, death and disease. They're also more likely to be neglected, ignored or left behind.
Did you know?
- 26 million older people are affected by natural disasters every year
- 97% of people killed by disasters live in developing countries
- Older people often make up a high proportion of people in displaced people's camps: in camps we visited in Uganda, we found 65% of people were aged over 60
'Older people don't get anything'
Pictured: Fatima said her son stole her emergency aid, during the Bangladesh floods.
As an older person, you may be less able to travel to camps for displaced people or queue for aid. You are more likely to suffer from conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or dementia. You may find it harder to chew or digest food.
At the same time, you may be pushed aside when there is a scramble for food, water or medical assistance.
In Sri Lanka, Perumal told us he had not bothered queuing for food when assistance arrived after the Asian tsunami. 'I have been pushed out on earlier occasions and have fallen on the ground,' he explains.
'I know I will get nothing this time round too. The fastest get the food, the strongest wins. Older people and the injured don’t get anything.'
Many older people are alone
Pictured: A man stands in the rubble of his home, after Typhoon Haiyan struck The Philippines in 2013.
Many people believe older people’s families will look after them. But, with many adults moving to cities to find work, extended families are far less common.
In fact, we often meet older people whose adult relatives have moved away or died, leaving them to care for grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren.
Up to half of all children orphaned by AIDS are cared for by a grandparent, debunking the myth that older people only have themselves to worry about.
Older people are often invisible to aid agencies
Pictured: Masouer's nursing home was destroyed during the earthquake in Haiti. She has no family, and says "it is you alone who takes notice. You are my family."
Because the media aid agencies typically use images of children to tell their stories, many people don’t believe there are many older people in poor countries. But the most rapid increase in the 60+ population is in the developing world.
Age International makes sure that older people aren't forgotten, by advising other organisations how to make aid more age-friendly.
We are here for older people in crisis
Pictured: Giving food to an older woman in The Philippines, in a package which she can easily carry and open.
Age International provides age-friendly aid to older people during emergencies. This includes:
- Making sure older people have food that is easy to chew and digest
- Creating queues for aid which put older people first and provide places to sit
- Providing specialist medical attention - including glasses, walking sticks, wheelchairs and incontinence pads
- Offering age-appropriate work, grants or loans to older people who can work, and cash transfers to those who cannot
Older people are particuarly vulnerable during emergencies. But, together, we can make sure they aren't forgotten.
In their own words: discover what life is like for older people in humanitarian crises with this ground-breaking report from our partner HelpAge International.
Older voices in humanitarian crises