The system will be going down for regular maintenance at 6pm NZT today for approximately 15minutes. Please save your work and logout.
Exploring older adults' understandings of disaster preparedness : a New Zealand perspective : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Individual preparedness for a disaster has centred on educating and encouraging
people to protect themselves against injury and damage to assist with response and recovery
after a disaster. Research on factors influencing individual disaster preparedness has focused
on demographic and psychological variables, while socio-cultural contexts have received less
attention. These omissions may help explain why more vulnerable population groups are
disproportionately affected. Older adults are a rapidly increasing population group who are a
vulnerable group at greater risk of negative effects during and after a disaster; however, little
attention has been given to older adults’ perspectives about disaster preparedness.
This thesis is presented as four papers written for submission to peer reviewed
journals, and explores older adults’ meanings and experiences about disaster preparedness
from a social constructionist perspective. A series of 26 qualitative interviews using a
narrative methodology was undertaken in 2012 with participants located in Wellington and
Christchurch (median ages 84, and 80), New Zealand. Participants were recruited through a
home support agency. Inductive thematic analysis of the data sets was undertaken, which
attended to the influences of personal and socio-cultural contexts on disaster preparedness.
The first paper provides a conceptual argument for use of qualitative methodologies
to further explore understandings of disaster preparedness. The second paper focuses on
older adults’ household disaster preparedness in Wellington, which identified that older
adults accepted personal responsibility for assembling and maintaining their survival kits.
Practical concerns such as the ability to refill water bottles, monitor stock rotation, and
ensure adequate medication supplies were identified to be difficult for some. Preparedness
was also associated with the quality of supportive social relationships that could provide
assistance. The third paper is also based on the Wellington study, and provides a broader
discussion about everyday preparedness. Meanings and experiences of preparedness were
concerned with managing health decline, preparing for death, and the interpersonal
complexity of negotiating their personal and social needs to remain independent in the
community. The fourth paper discusses older adults’ experiences of preparedness during the
Canterbury earthquake sequence (2010-2012). Disaster preparedness was primarily linked to
the importance of social relationships; and a concern regarding a lack of age appropriate
safety messages about personal protection. This thesis contributes to the literature on disaster
preparedness by identifying age specific influences, which relate to managing personal health,
social support and socio-cultural norms of independence. Some participants lacked
informational, health and social resources, which would enable preparedness actions and the
ability to respond effectively. The research from the Wellington and Christchurch studies
identifies the need for coordinated, multidisciplinary age specific disaster preparedness
planning to assist individual and community resilience.