Are seniors at a higher risk of violence after a disaster? Most people would think so. They are a more vulnerable population. It would make sense that they are.
But what does the research say?
Violence after Disasters
Some researchers say disasters are a time of social cohesion, when people come together as a community. There is evidence to support this, and we can see it unfold. A hurricane or tornado will rip through an area. Neighbors mourn together. Then they rebuild together.
Things are by no means not rosy after a crisis, however. It’s a crisis for a reason. And with a crisis comes crime.
The Journalist’s Resource published an article on this subject, stating:
When disasters strike communities, people largely pull together. In the wake of devastating events like earthquakes, big fires, or hurricanes, they look for ways to support one another, protect what remains, and re-establish a sense of normalcy. But both anecdotes and systematic evidence tell us that there are some exceptions. A few people in disaster areas turn to anti-social activities, including crime.
Disaster researchers now look at the full range of behaviors that occur. Uplifting cooperation follows community disasters, but so do looting; sexual assaults, acts of domestic violence, and fraud.https://journalistsresource.org/politics-and-government/crime-disaster-hurricane-earthquake-research/
Crime after a disaster is real. Police are preoccupied. People are desperate. Thugs see opportunity.
Seniors as Targets
Criminals like easy targets and older, frail senior citizens are seen as just that. The CDC states that approximately 22% of Americans 65+ years old are disabled in some way, shape, or manner. Seniors are less physically able to protect themselves. They can’t run as fast, they’re not as strong, and old bones break more easily.
Another problem is that seniors often have prescription drugs at home. Many have standing orders for different painkillers. Addicts know this.
How long can an addict go without a fix before risking armed robbery to find one?
Beyond addicts, you have people desperate for money after a collapse. People might look to steal drugs that they can then sell on the street.
In a prolonged crisis, otherwise honest people with legitimate health conditions could also come looking. How far will someone go to keep themselves alive? How far would they go to keep a child alive?
Whether a senior actually has prescription drugs in the home or not doesn’t matter. The homes of older adults are where people would look for them.
4 Ways Seniors Can Improve Safety After a Crisis
Seniors are some of the toughest people I know. For starters, growing old isn’t easy. They have learned to be tough. They also come from a generation where harder times were more common, and self-reliance was a way of life.
Despite the challenges, there are plenty of ways seniors can improve safety and reduce the odds they become victims.
#1 – Own an Equalizer (and know how to use it)
A .38 Special is a great “equalizer” for an 80-year-old woman with arthritic knees going up against a twenty-year-old tweeker looking for food, booze, and drugs.
If guns make an elder nervous, there are non-gun self defense weapons. The point is to have something that helps level the playing field against an opponent.
#2 – Find Strength in Numbers
After a disaster women and children who become separated from their families are at an increased risk of being the victims of violence in one form or another. Rape is one of them. After Hurricane Katrina, there was a significant rise in the number of rapes in the affected region.
Flying solo during a crisis puts the person at a disadvantage – especially if they are a vulnerable population group, like seniors.
Older adults might be wise to move in with family after a natural disaster or collapse until things return to normal. This is even more important of the senior lives in urban centers, close to bad areas of town, or live alone.
#3 – Have Adequate Communication
Proper communication is vital. Seniors need the ability to communicate with law enforcement (assuming LE is still available) and with family and friends. This is for their own safety but also the safety of others. Seniors know more than anyone the importance of checking on their peers.
#4 – Be Prepared at Home
You have better odds at survival and safety if you can eliminate the need to leave your house in search of provisions or other necessities. Your home is your castle. Do not place yourself at risk by leaving it during a crisis.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Seniors are at a higher risk of violence after a crisis. Perhaps in the immediate aftermath of a disaster there are people who will band together as they all seek to escape a common destruction. However, there are others who will view it as an opportunity to commit crime.
Prolonged disasters are particularly troublesome. People begin to get hungry, cold, thirsty, scared, and realize that there are a whole lot of supplies out there that they can get by stealing. Perhaps all it takes is a bit of intimidation. Maybe it just requires pushing someone over. The easier the better for criminals.
Seniors need to be prepared for this. Seniors’ families need to be prepared for it as well. Adult children need to protect older parents after a disaster the same as those parents would have protected them. Start an action plan if you haven’t already.