Original Paper

Natural Hazards

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 349-373

First online:

The vulnerability of the elderly to hurricane hazards in Sarasota, Florida

  • Chongming WangAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University Email author 
  • , Brent YarnalAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University

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Although the elderly are commonly thought to be disproportionately vulnerable to natural hazards, the elderly populations of coastal communities are continuing to grow. Because there is little to no empirical hazards work specifically addressing the vulnerable elderly in coastal communities, this paper uses Sarasota County, Florida, as a case study to analyze how vulnerable the elderly are to hurricane hazards and whether all elderly people are equally vulnerable. To explore the spatial variations in degree and composition of vulnerability among this population, the analysis maps physical exposure to hurricane storm-surge inundation and precipitation-induced flooding and creates social vulnerability indices by applying principal components analysis to census block group data in a geographic 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 paper 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 between the elderly populations.


Hurricane hazards Vulnerability Elderly Vulnerability assessment Florida