Contribution of the Elderly to Community Resilience

New article (8 pp.) from Dan Aldrich: Creating Community Resilience Through Elder-Led Physical and Social Infrastructure.

Natural disasters and rapidly aging populations are chronic problems for societies worldwide. We investigated the effects of an intervention in Japan known as Ibasho, which embeds elderly residents in vulnerable areas within larger social networks and encourages them to participate in leadership activities. This project sought to deepen the connections of these elderly residents to society and to build elderly leadership and community capacity for future crises.

Methods: We carried out surveys of participants and nonparticipant residents across the city of Ofunato in Tohoku, Japan, 1 year after the intervention began. Our surveys included questions assessing participation levels in Ibasho, demographic characteristics, efficacy, social networks, and a sense of belonging.

Results: Regression analysis and propensity score matching of more than 1100 respondents showed that regular participation in the Ibasho project had a statistically significant and positive connection with various measures of social capital.

Conclusions: Given its relatively low cost and focus on deepening cohesion, we suggest that this community-based project could be replicated and scaled up in other countries to deepen resilience, elder health, and social capital. Moving away from an emphasis on investing in physical infrastructure, we believe that disaster risk reduction strategies should center on social infrastructure

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