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For Immediate Release
March 18, 2011

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

Japanese Tsunami Underscores Need for Elder Disaster Preparedness

The oldest segment of Japan’s population will likely be the hardest hit as a result of the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami, based on data from previous catastrophic events. Approximately 23 percent of Japanese citizens currently are age 65 and above.

“Japan’s population — with the highest proportion of older people in any country — gives us an indicator of where the world as a whole is headed,” said James Appleby, RPh, MPH, executive director of The Gerontological Society of America. “The significance of this demographic shift and the severity of the tsunami’s effects are highlighted by the numerous reports showing that seniors suffer disproportionately during natural disasters.”

For example, the May 12, 2008, earthquake in Wenchuan, China, was associated with a twofold increase in the one-year mortality among a group of nonagenarians that lived nearby, according to a study published in March 2011 issue of The Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences.

Similarly, the spring 2006 edition of Public Policy & Aging Report reported that three quarters of those who perished in Hurricane Katrina were over the age of 60.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Japan as this time. Many people have limited access to food and water, and there is concern that lifesaving medicines could soon be in short supply. A number of the tragic news stories we see call attention to the needs of older people and other at-risk populations,” Appleby said.

There also is a growing field of literature that outlines necessary steps for elder disaster preparedness in the face of an emergency. The Public Policy & Aging Report demonstrated that geographic information systems are able to map patterns of vulnerability in advance, allowing policymakers and first-responders to intervene both effectively and efficiently when disaster strikes.

Additionally, multi-tiered evacuation plans, pre-existing social networks, and “go-kits” can be used to assist elders at critical moments. These kits may include detailed contact information for family members; contact information for relevant health care providers; high-nutrient foods; and a week’s supply of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, including a list of medications, the required dosage, and times of administration.

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,200+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Click here for a printable PDF version of this press release.

Mildred M. Seltzer Distinguished Service Recognition

Presented to C. Joanne Grabinski, PhD, Eastern Michigan University, and Mary Alice Wolf, PhD, Saint Joseph University.

This award honors colleagues who are near retirement or recently retired. Recipients are individuals who have been actively involved in AGHE through service on committees, as elected officers, and/or have provided leadership in one of AGHE’s grant-funded projects.

Administrative Leadership Award

Presented to Tammy M. Bray, PhD, Oregon State University

This award honors administrators on AGHE member campuses who have made exceptional efforts in support of gerontology or geriatrics education.

David A. Peterson Gerontology & Geriatrics Education Best Paper of the Volume Award

Presented to Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston; Elizabeth Johns, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Judith A. Griffin, MA, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the article “Students Explore Livable Communities.” Honorable mention is given to Emily J. Robbins, MS, Miami University; Jennifer M. Kinney, PhD, Miami University; and Cary S. Kart, PhD, Miami University, for the article “Promoting Active Engagement in Health Research: Lessons Learned from an Undergraduate Gerontology Capstone Course.”

The purpose of this award is to recognize excellence in scholarship in academic gerontology in AGHE’s official journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.

Graduate Student Paper Award

Presented to Deborah Gray, MBA, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the paper “Weight and Wealth: The Relationship between Obesity and Net Worth for Pre-Retirement Age Men and Women.”

This award acknowledges excellence in scholarly work conducted by an AGHE Annual Meeting student attendee.

Book Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging

Presented to Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morinn-Nelson for “Niwechihaw/I help” in the primary reader (pre-K to 2nd grade) category, and Ann Grifalconi and Jerry Pickney for “Ain’t Nobody A Stranger to Me” in the elementary reader (3rd to 5th grade) category.

This award recognizes portrayals of meaningful aging in children’s literature.