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.