Skip to main content Accessibility help

Motivating rural older residents to prepare for disasters: moving beyond personal benefits



In the United States of America (USA), older adults in rural areas are at increased risk for adverse outcomes of disasters, partly due to medical needs, limited or long geographic distances from community resources, and less knowledge and motivation about preparedness steps. Older residents and ageing service providers in a rural community in the USA were interviewed regarding their perceptions about disasters and preparedness, and their reactions to the preparedness training programme using the concepts of the Extended Parallel Process Model. Participants generally indicated low motivation to engage in preparedness behaviours despite perceptions of personal risk and beliefs that preparedness behaviours were easy and could improve disaster outcomes. A theme of social relationships emerged from the data, with participants identifying social relationships as resources, barriers and motivators. People surrounding older adults can support or deter their preparedness behaviours, and sometimes elicit a desire to protect the wellbeing of others. Findings suggest two potential strategies to facilitate preparedness behaviours by moving beyond personal benefits: highlighting older adults' increased ability to protect the wellbeing of younger generations and their community by being prepared themselves, and engaging family, friends and neighbours in preparedness programmes to enhance the resilience of their social groups. Older adults in many cultures have a desire to contribute to their society. Novel and effective approaches to increase preparedness could target their social groups.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Sato Ashida, 145 North Riverside Drive, N411 CPHB, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA E-mail:


Hide All
Acierno, R., Ruggiero, K. J., Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S. and Galea, S. 2006. Risk and protective factors for psychopathology among older versus younger adults after the 2004 Florida hurricanes. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14, 12, 1051–9.
Administration on Aging 2006. Just in Case: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers. Available online at [Accessed February 2013].
Al-Rousan, T. M., Rubenstein, L. M. and Wallace, R. B. 2014. Preparedness for natural disasters among older US adults: a nationwide survey. American Journal of Public Health, 104, 3, 506–11.
American Red Cross 2009. Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors. Available online at [Accessed February 2013].
Baernholdt, M., Yan, G., Hinton, I., Rose, K. and Mattos, M. 2012. Quality of life in rural and urban adults 65 years and older: findings from the national health and nutrition examination survey. Journal of Rural Health, 28, 4, 339–47.
Bruneau, M., Chang, S. E., Eguchi, R. T., Lee, G. C., O'Rourke, T. D., Reinhorn, A. M., Shinozuka, M., Tierney, K., Wallace, W. and von Winterfeldt, D. 2003. A framework to quantitatively assess and enhance the seismic resilience of communities. Earthquake Spectra, 19, 4, 733–52.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2012. Disaster Planning Tips for Older Adults and Their Families. Available online at [Accessed July 2013].
Cheng, S. T. 2009. Generativity in later life: perceived respect from younger generations as a determinant of goal disengagement and psychological well-being. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 64B, 1, 4554.
Choi, N. G. and Kim, J. 2011. The effect of time volunteering and charitable donations in later life on psychological wellbeing. Ageing & Society, 31, 4, 590610.
Crabtree, B. and Miller, W. 1999. Using codes and code manuals: a template organizing style of interpretation. In Miller, W. (ed.), Doing Qualitative Research. Sage, Thousand Oaks, California.
Doocy, S., Rofi, A., Moodie, C., Spring, E., Bradley, S., Burnham, G. and Robinson, C. 2007. Tsunami mortality in Aceh province, Indonesia. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 85, 4, 273–8.
Eisenman, D. P., Glik, D., Gonzalez, L., Maranon, R., Zhou, Q., Tseng, C. H. and Asch, S. M. 2009. Improving Latino disaster preparedness using social networks. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37, 6, 512–7.
Erikson, E. H. 1982. The Life Cycle Completed. W. W. Norton, New York.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2009. Personal Preparedness in America: Findings from the 2009 Citizen Corps National Survey. Available online at [Accessed July 2013].
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2104. Disaster Declarations for Iowa. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
Feret, B. and Bratberg, J. 2008. Pharmacist-based intervention to prepare residents of assisted-living facilities for emergencies. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 48, 6, 780–3.
Grossman, D. C., Kim, A., Macdonald, S. C., Klein, P., Copass, M. K. and Maier, R. V. 1997. Urban–rural differences in prehospital care of major trauma. Journal of Trauma, 42, 4, 723–9.
Heaney, C. A. and Israel, B. A. 2008. Social networks and social support. In Glanz, D. K., Rimer, B. K. and Viswanath, K. (eds), Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice. Fourth edition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 189210.
Heller, K., Alexander, D., Gatz, M., Knight, B. G. and Rose, T. 2005. Social and personal factors as predictors of earthquake preparation: the role of support provision, network discussion, negative affect, age, and education. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35, 2, 399422.
House, J. S., Landis, K. R. and Umberson, D. 1988. Social relationships and health. Science, 241, 4865, 540–45.
IBM Corporation 2013. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows. Version 22.0, IBM Corporation, Armonk, New York.
Iowa Department on Aging 2011. Older Iowans: 2011. State Data Center of Iowa and the Iowa Department on Aging. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management 2014. Iowa Disaster History. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
Kosastsky, T. 2003. The 2003 heat waves. Euro Surveillance, 10, 7, 148–9.
Li, R. 2009. Advancing Behavioral and Social Research on the Elderly in Disasters. Committee on Population Expert Meeting, National Academies, National Institutes of Health, Washington DC. Available online at [Accessed February 2013].
McAdams, D. P. 2006. The redemptive self: generativity and the stories Americans live by. Research in Human Development, 3, 2/3, 81100.
McAdams, D. P. and de St. Aubin, E. 1992. A theory of generativity and its assessment through self-report, behavioral acts, and narrative themes in autobiography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 6, 1003–15.
McMunn, A., Nazroo, J., Wahrendorf, M., Breeze, E. and Zaninotto, P. 2009. Participation in socially-productive activities, reciprocity and wellbeing in later life: baseline results in England. Ageing & Society, 29, 5, 765–82.
Mello, E., Ramirez, M., Wu, H., Hamann, C., Yang, G., Gay, J., Waldron, D. and Peek-Asa, C. 2015. PrepKids: Training on disaster preparedness for families of children with special health care needs. Annual Conference of the Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research, New Orleans, LO.
Misener, K., Doherty, A. and Hamm-Kerwin, S. 2010. Learning from the experiences of older adult volunteers in sport: a serious leisure perspective. Journal of Leisure Research, 42, 2, 267–89.
Narushima, M. 2005. ‘Payback time’: community volunteering among older adults as a transformative mechanism. Ageing & Society, 25, 4, 567–84.
National Science and Technology Council 2005. Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction: A Report from the Subcomittee on Disaster Reduction. Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Available online at [Accessed February 2013].
National Weather Service 2014. Flooding in Iowa. National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
Parkinson, L., Warburton, J., Sibbritt, D. and Byles, J. 2010. Volunteering and older women: psychosocial and health predictors of participation. Aging and Mental Health, 14, 8, 917–27.
Rolnick, J. 2006. Impacts and contributions of older persons in emergency situations. A case study of the 2003 heat wave in Europe. Unpublished report, World Health Organization, Geneva.
Schwingel, A., Niti, M. M., Tang, C. and Ng, T. P. 2009. Continued work employment and volunteerism and mental well-being of older adults: Singapore longitudinal ageing studies. Age and Ageing, 38, 5, 531–37.
Simerman, J., Ott, D. and Mellnik, T. 2005. Katrina affected elderly the most. Charlotte Observer. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
Smith, J. and Goodnow, J. J. 1999. Unasked-for support and unsolicited advice: age and the quality of social experience. Psychology and Aging, 14, 1, 108–21.
The Des Moines Register 2013. Remembering and Rebuilding: The 2008 Flood. Available online at [Accessed November 2014].
The Hartford Geriatric Education Center 2011 a. It Could Happen to Me: Family Conversations About Disaster Planning. Available online at [Accessed May 2013].
The Hartford Geriatric Education Center 2011 b. The Calm Before the Storm: Family Conversations About Disaster Planning, Caregiving, Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Available online at [Accessed March 2013].
US Census Bureau 2010. 2010 Census Urban and Rural Classification and Urban Area Criteria. Available online at [Accessed December 2014].
US Department of Health and Human Services 2002. Rural Communities and Emergency Preparedness. Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services. Available online at [Accessed July 2013].
US Department of Homeland Security 2006. 30 Tips for Emergency Preparedness. Federal Emergency Management Agency Citizen Corps. Available online at [Accessed July 2013].
van Ryn, M. and Heaney, C. A. 1992. What's the use of theory? Health Education Quarterly, 19, 3, 315–30.
Wahrendorf, M. and Siegrist, J. 2010. Are changes in productive activities of older people associated with changes in their well-being? Results of a longitudinal European study. European Journal of Ageing, 7, 2, 5968.
Witte, K. and Allen, M. 2000. A meta-analysis of fear appeals: implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Education and Behavior, 27, 5, 591615.
World Health Organization (WHO) 2008. Older Persons in Emergencies: An Active Ageing Perspective. Available online at [Accessed April 2015].
World Health Organization (WHO) 2013. Older Persons in Emergency Situations: A Case Study of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Available online at [Accessed April 2015].


Motivating rural older residents to prepare for disasters: moving beyond personal benefits



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed