Natural Hazards

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 349–373 | Cite as

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

Original Paper


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 



We are grateful to several people for their help with this research. These include Rick Morrow, Richard Kerkering, Scott Montgomery, and Martin Duran of Sarasota County Government, and Carrie Werner of the Census Bureau. We also thank Gregory Knight and Alexander Klippel who provided comments on an earlier version of this paper. Special acknowledgement goes to Tim Frazier for sharing his storm-surge analyses. The research was supported in part by funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Sectoral Applications Research Program-Coasts and the Pennsylvania State University through the Ruby S. Miller Endowment Fund in Geography. Finally, we would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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