Be Cool and Prepare-Winning Programs Meet Disasters

Aging Today, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview
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Be Cool and Prepare-Winning Programs Meet Disasters


With record heat waving across the United States, "gut feelings" making people edgy about potential Homeland Security alerts, and the hurricane season storming away, two programs recently honored by the American Society on Aging (ASA) offer timely models for protecting older Americans when disaster strikes.

Cool Zones, created by Aging and Independence Services (AIS) of San Diego County, and Prepare, a national train-the-trainer program developed by Mather LifeWays to educate long-term care providers about aiding older people during disasters and emergencies, were two of six programs to win ASA's 2007 Healthcare and Aging Awards, sponsored by Pfizer. (Aging Today will include more about the other winners in the next issue.)

POLAR BEAR FANS

Since the scorching summer of 2000, the blue Cool Zone polar bear logo has become a familiar sight for San Diego's older adults. In 2001, with sponsorship from San Diego Gas and Electric, the AIS persuaded 60 senior centers, nutrition sites, libraries, courtrooms, enclosed malls and businesses to become designated Cool Zones-places where older individuals could find air-conditioned protection from dangerous levels of heat.

Today, 160 sites-including restaurants, hotels and even two museums-participate in the program. Each location displays the Cool Zone logo at its front entrance and agrees to welcome older adults who want to sit and cool off, without expecting purchases or participation in activities, according to Denise Nelesen, communications manager for AIS. Although sites are located throughout the region, many are concentrated in the low-to-middle-income eastern sector of the county, which is ethnically and racially diverse.

Because lack of transportation was an issue for many lower-income elders on fixed incomes, AIS arranged for free bus passes to enable them to reach Cool Zones. A dividend of thè-program, Nelesen said, is that Cool Zones introduce some isolated older individuals to venues where they can enjoy social interaction with others.

In addition to providing Cool Zones, the program offers free small electric fans to lower-income homebound elders and people with disabilities.

For more information, contact Nelesen at (858) 505-6474; e-mail: denise.ne lesen@sdcounty.ca.gov.

PREPARE

The Prepare program is the only geriatric-specific disaster preparedness program offered nationally as a train-thetrainer model. Prepare works to ensure that health providers in senior living and long-term care (LTC) settings gain the core competencies they need to address the medical and psychosocial consequences of major disasters and public health emergencies.

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