Claire Pendergrast

Project title: Examining the role of aging-in-place organizations in building older adults’ disaster resilience: A King County, Washington, case study

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2019 | Faculty advisor: Nicole Errett


Purpose of the Study: Older adults are more susceptible to adverse health outcomes during and after a disaster compared with their younger counterparts. Aging-in-place organizations such as senior centers and Villages provide social services and programming for older adults and may support older adults’ resilience to disasters. This study examines the role of aging-in-place organizations in building disaster resilience for older adults, as well as perceived challenges and opportunities of incorporating disaster resilience activities into organizational programming. Design and Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 14 aging-in-place organization leaders in King County, Washington. The sample included representatives of five government-run senior centers, seven non-profit senior centers, and two Villages. Interviews were audio-recorded and professionally transcribed. We used a combined inductive and deductive approach to code and thematically analyze the data. Results: Aging-in-place organization leadership recognize disasters as a threat to older adults’ health and safety, and they see opportunities to provide disaster-related support for older adults, though the type and extent of participation in resilience-building activities reflected each organization’s unique local context. Organizations participate in a variety of disaster-related planning and activities, though participants heavily emphasized the importance of collaborative and communication-focused efforts. Implications: Findings suggest that aging-in-place organizations should be included in local disaster planning efforts. They may be best equipped to support older adults’ disaster resilience by serving as a trusted source of disaster-related information and providing input on the appropriateness of disaster plans and messages for the unique needs of older adults aging-in-place. URI