TRAPPED IN PLACE: THE VULNERABILITY OF THE ELDERLY TO HURRICANE HAZARDS IN SARASOTA, FLORIDA

Open Access
Author:
Wang, Chongming
Graduate Program:
Geography
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • Brenton Yarnal, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • HURRICANE HAZARDS
  • VULNERABILITY
  • THE ELDERLY
  • VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT
  • FLORIDA
Abstract:
Although the elderly are commonly thought to be disproportionately vulnerable to natural hazards, the elderly populations of coastal communities in Florida and other areas exposed to natural hazards are continuing to grow. Because there is no empirical hazards work specifically addressing the vulnerable elderly in a spatial context, this thesis uses Sarasota County, Florida as a case study to address the question: how vulnerable are the elderly to hurricane hazards and are all elderly people equally vulnerable? To explore the spatial variations in degree and composition of vulnerability among this population, the research maps physical exposure to hurricane storm surge inundation and precipitation-induced flooding and creates social vulnerability indices by applying Principal Component Analysis to census block group data in a geographical information system. The results show that elderly inhabitants of barrier islands face a considerable physical threat from hurricane-induced storm surge and flooding but are less socially vulnerable because of their wealth; the elderly living inland are far less physically vulnerable but are poorer and consequently demonstrate high socioeconomic sensitivity and limited adaptive capacity to these hurricane hazards. The thesis concludes that the elderly are not equally vulnerable: there are many different types of elderly living in many different locations and their vulnerability varies by type and over space. Effective vulnerability-reduction measures should account for these differences among the elderly population.