Seniors, Emergencies and Disasters


Seniors, Emergencies and Disasters

Recent natural disasters around the world, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires, have heightened awareness about emergency management.

The CCSMH has identified emergency management as one of the contexts in which it can serve as a catalyst to protect and promote seniors’ mental health.

The four pillars of emergency management are: prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

    • Prevention and mitigation entail proactive measures taken before an emergency situation occurs in the interest of eliminating or reducing the potential risks and impacts.
    • Preparedness refers to actions taken to become ready to respond to an emergency situation if and when one occurs.
    • Response refers to the actions that are taken during and immediately after an emergency situation in order to manage the consequences, and in particular to limit harm and loss, including loss of life.
    • Recovery involves efforts to repair or restore conditions to an acceptable level through measures taken after a disaster.

As federal, provincial and municipal efforts to enhance emergency management gain momentum, it is critical that the specific needs of older adults, including those who are aging with mental health needs and cognitive impairments, are considered.

It is also critical that older adults have the opportunity to participate to the extent that they can in the resilience and resource building efforts of their communities. This includes older adults who reside in congregate living environments like nursing homes and long term care facilities.

The CCSMH is represented on an International Working Group (IWG) focused on seniors and emergencies from the perspective of health care providers and continuity of health services. Recently, a knowledge translation and dissemination project was undertaken to increase the accessibility of networking options, tools and resources that have been developed by the three Working Groups convened by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). CCSMH agreed to host associated documents and links

 International Working Groups Resource List

This list directs the reader to resources affiliated with the IWGs under one of these categories:

    • Commissioned by PHAC in support of the overall Seniors and Emergencies mandate or specifically to support the work of an IWG (i.e., contractual agreement or other financial support).
    • Voluntary collaboration among IWG members promoted, endorsed and/or facilitated under the auspices of an IWG.
    • Related work by IWG members since inception (2006 onwards).

The resources that are included address older people as individuals/citizens, family members, community members, care or service recipients, members of an “at risk” group and /or in some other capacity AND some aspects of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and/or recovery.

Select Documents Commissioned by PHAC

    • Guideline: Addressing Older Adults’ Distinct Psychosocial Issues in Emergency Situations (English) (French)


For more information, contact the CCSMH Seniors and Emergencies Section Leader
Maggie Gibson, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Psychologist, Veterans Care Program, Parkwood Hospital,
St. Joseph ‘s Health Care, London, Ontario, Canada