Older Persons in Emergency Situations: A Case Study of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake
As society continues to age, considerations for action and policies to cope with the needs and capacities of older people, people with disabilities, and others who need support in a disaster are critical. In the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995), statistics showed that there were 6,433 deaths, 43,792 injured and 510,000 homes damaged. Older people were found to have higher mortality rates: among immediate casualties, 53% in Kobe City and 56.6% in Hyogo Prefecture overall were aged 60 and above. Among later earthquake related deaths: 90% were aged 60 and above.
Considered as the “first aged society earthquake” in the world, this case study report reflected on the situation of elderly victims and survivors of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake through the perspective of the disaster cycle and synthesized measures perceived to be necessary for the future in terms of general health emergency preparedness, response and recovery; and specific concerns for older people during evacuation, temporary sheltering and permanent relocation. Storytelling groups since the earthquake struck were created to meet students to relay experiences about the disaster and provide lessons for the future. Narrations from older people of their experience, resilience and lessons learned are preserved at the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial - Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution.