RELEASE: Aging and Disabled People Must Be Included In Disaster Planning

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress looks at the growing population of aging and disabled adults and underscores why they must be included in future disaster planning.

Older and disabled people are at greater risk for complications from COVID-19, and their heightened risk to the most severe effects of the coronavirus is in part due to a failure of U.S. systems to provide necessary supports. As a group, adults over age 65 and people with preexisting conditions are less likely to have access to safe and stable housing; face more barriers to supporting themselves than the public at large; and often face discrimination when medical resources are scarce.

Key factors for policymakers to consider in planning for the next pandemic include:

  • The number of disabled and aging adults is growing. Sixty-one million people in the United States—1 in 4—have some sort of disability, up from 1 in 5 in 2010. It is estimated that, by 2034, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18.
  • Research shows that older and disabled people are 2 to 4 times more likely to die or be seriously injured in a disaster—often because of failed U.S. response efforts.
  • The lack of affordable housing and the age gap for benefits means that people ages 51 and older make up one-third of the unhoused population, making self-quarantining during a pandemic nearly impossible.

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how incredibly unprepared the United States is to support disabled and aging people through a widespread crisis,” said Valerie Novack, fellow with the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress and author of the analysis. “As it stands now, there is not adequate housing, medical equipment, or personnel to safely support these populations through this or future crises. For the past several months, policymakers have been scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in this era of growing global instability, it is essential that they take the long view and put into place basic supports to help disabled and aging adults weather the next crisis.”

Read the column: “Preparations for the Next Pandemic Must Improve Resources for Those At Greater Risk” by Valerie Novack

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at .

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.