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Spotlight on Innovation: EmPowerment: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults

We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies used by the 2018 recipients of n4a's Aging Innovations Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week we're focusing on Arlington Agency on Aging (Virginia), winner in the Information & Referral/Access to Services category.

The Arlington AAA's EmPowerment: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults is an annual program that was developed to learn from older adults about their needs and concerns related to emergency preparedness and to assist them in planning for the unexpected. In September 2017, the program was held at an affordable senior independent residence in conjunction with Emergency Preparedness Month. Through a collaboration with the Office of Emergency Management, local fire departments, the American Red Cross and the Animal Welfare League, residents met with representatives from the local fire department, participated in interactive activities and received a Red Cross ready kit with emergency drinking water, flashlight, poncho, food rations, whistle, blanket and other supplies. An on-site interpreter translated information to Spanish for non–English speaking residents.
 
The Arlington AAA identified the need for this program after two emergencies that significantly impacted older adults in the community: a summer storm that left many people without power for three days and an explosion at one of Arlington AAA's senior independent living residences. The Arlington AAA staff, who were part of the response efforts, realized the need to be more proactive and engage older adults in emergency preparedness while fostering resiliency. For the first event in 2015, Arlington AAA found the most vulnerable in the community—for instance, recipients of home-based meals—and invited them to a kickoff, where participants created a communication plan and left with information to build their own ready kits for emergency preparedness. For AAAs looking to implement a similar program, the Arlington AAA recommends reserving time for planning while also staying proactive and partnering with emergency preparedness management organizations.
 
The program has seen great success. Hosting the event at an affordable senior residence increased the number of attendees. Nearly all attendees described the event as excellent in a follow-up survey. Many responded that they would use the materials to help them plan for an emergency and that they would create or update their emergency plan. Partners at the event were able to gain feedback directly from older adults. Arlington AAA also recognized that some of the most vulnerable older adults in its community may also be non-English speakers, and staff saw this as an opportunity to engage community groups and organizations who represent their diverse community. As the program has evolved over the years, the Arlington AAA has been able to strengthen its relationships with affordable housing partners by offering workshops and annual events to connect older adults with emergency preparedness services.
 
To learn more about this year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!

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