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The role of the aged in community recovery following Hurricane Andrew


Material Information

The role of the aged in community recovery following Hurricane Andrew
Series Title:
Quick response research report ;
Physical Description:
5 p. : ; 28 cm.
Guillette, Elizabeth A
University of Colorado, Boulder -- Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado
Place of Publication:
Boulder, CO
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Older people -- Political activity -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Hurricane Andrew, 1992   ( lcsh )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (p. 5).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Elizabeth A. Guillette.
General Note:
"Final report"--Caption, p. 1.

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001982558
oclc - 279216023
usfldc doi - F57-00007
usfldc handle - f57.7
System ID:

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Full Text
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The role of the aged in community recovery following Hurricane Andrew
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by Elizabeth A. Guillette.
Boulder, CO :
b Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado,
5 p. ;
28 cm.
0 440
Quick response research report ;
v #56
"Final report"--Caption, p. 1.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 5).
Electronic reproduction.
[Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Libraries,
d 2008].
n Digitized from copy owned by Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, in a joint project with the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) Research Library's disaster mental health initiative.
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Hurricane Andrew, 1992.
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THEROLEOFTHEAGEDIN COMMUNITY RECOVERYFOLLOWINGHURRICANE ANDREW ByElizabethA.Guillette QUICK RESPONSERESEARCHREPORT#561993This publication is partofthe Natural Hazards Research&Applications Information Center's ongoing QUick Response Research Report Series.


. Final Report Natural Hazards Research and Applications Infonnation Center UniversityofColorado BoulderCO80309-0482TheRoleoftheAgedinCommunity Recovery FollowingHurricaneAndrewElizabethAGuillette Departtnent ofAnthropology UniversityofRoridaGainesville,FL32611Theevaluationofcommunity response to disaster recovery tends to focusonthe group as a whole. Social, political and economic factors are delineated as the resource variables in recovery. This research varies, in that life cycle placement becomes the unitofanalysis.Theindividuals under study are a small groupofcommunity residents that refused to relocate following devastationoftheir communitybyHurricane Andrew on August 24, 1992. This emergent group provided the leadership in community recovery.INTRODUCTIONThecommunity serves as a visual recordofthe residents' history and identity, thus providing for a continuationofsocial functioningfollowing disaster (Quarantelli and Dynes, 1977; Oliver-Smith, 1986; Alexander, 1989). Initial emergent groups, arising from within the devastated community are familiar with the past functioning and meaningful history. The utilizationofthis knowledge, on the individual and group level, provides therapeutic features which maximize action for social continuity. Recognitionofprior community limitations influences planned change (perry and Pugh, 1978: 106-110; Johnson and Schulte, 1992). Communities are generally composedofmixed ages. The usual post-disaster evaluationofcommunity needs concentrates on the vulnerability and helplessnessofthe aged (Bell, Kara and Batterson, 1978; Parr, 1987). This stance tends to overlook any productive leadership and community centered care-providing behaviors provided by the oldest individuals.Theapplicationofknowledge, accrued with aging, played a vital role during the immediate recovery phase in anMricanvillage following massive destruction from a tornado (Guillette, 1991). Leadership and care-providing by the aged gradually lost significance, as these particular roles were usurped during long-tenn recovery by those having economic and political strength (Guillette, 1991; 1992). Disaster-related contributionsofthe aged, as a specific group, hasnotbeen investigated in the United States.THERESEARCHSITEThe research site, Americana Village Estates,islocated on the eastern edgeofthe Everglades wetlands, approximately seven miles northofHomestead, Rorida. The community was established during the 1960s as a retirement community. It was fonnally reorganized during the late 19705 as a condominium association, admitting all ages. Homes were double-wide trailersonpurchased lots. Employed individuals were mainly service providers, with women working in restaurants and stores and men engaged in various trades. Retirees reflected historiesofsimilar employment. A spatial division between retirees and younger families occurred, with the aged continuing to purchase lots in eastern sectionofthe community and families establishing homes in the westernareaResidents reported a social division between retirees and families. Community activities reflected the age bias, with the aged attending the pot-luck dinners and younger individuals supporting the Saturday Morning Coffee Hour. Allofthe 573 established homes underwent extreme damage by Hurricane Andrew. The community was declared unsafe for habitation and fonnally condemned two days afterwards. Twenty-six residents refused to relocate. This group, ranging in age from 6 to70years, worked1


together to clear a side-roadtomaintain an on-going community. The reclaimed area was named Pandemonium Boulevard by the residents, and became the nucleusofcommunity rebirth. All but two, who remained as a couple in their original, but severely damaged home, obtained recreational vehicles to serve as temporary residence. During the fIrst three weeks, the aged couple remaining in their home relocated out-of state, moving to their winter-home. A Cuban family,ofmiddle aged parents and two children, also relocated. This family, which moved into the Americana Estates six months previously, had a historyoffrequent moves. The populationofPandemonium Blvd. remained stable until long-term recovery efforts were instigated.METHODSSite visits occurred during the second and third post-disaster week, in early October and early November, with the last site visit in mid-December. Residents were interviewed in depth during each visit. Both formal and ethnographic formats for interviewing were used.Theinitial interviews concentrated on preand immediate post-disaster experiences and loss. Repeat interviews centered on post-hurricane activities, including social networks for gaining immediate assistance, the developmentofformal and informal communication networks and support systems within the settlement, and the useofformal services provided by county, state and national governments. Participant observation permitted observationofthe flowofgoods and services within the group.Ofparticular interest was the useofindividual coping mechanisms,orthose behaviors used to decrease stress.Theimpactofindividual behaviors on the group was evaluated, along with the impactofgroup behaviors on the individual. As the social environment gradually changed from small group survival to community re-establishment, the focusofinterviews and participant observation also altered. Increased emphasis was placed on social processes, centering on the formulationofcommunity-centered recovery and responses to community continuity and change. Individuals were categorized by age. International guidelines for age were used in order to allow for cross comparisons. Under this classifIcation, the aged are those who are60yearsormore.FINDINGSThestudy group (N=20) remained constant following the initial exodusofthe two families. Six new families entered the community during late October, a time when re-vitalization appeared certain.Thepredominate age group was 30-50 year old adults (60%), followedbythose over60years (23%). High-school students and recent graduates composed the remaining 17%ofthe population.Thegroup was evenly divided by gender. The majority were married couples, with one aged female living alone. The managerofthe condominium, a man in his low sixties, was also a Pandemonium Blvd.residentDisplaced community residents, who did not reside on Pandemonium Boulevardbutvisited daily, were the condominium president and his wife, and the ex-vice-president and his wife. This later couple were over aged 60. Another daily returnee was the30year old mailman, also a displacedresidentImmediately following the establishmentofPandemonium Blvd., the group hung an American flag. Volunteer organizations, mainly churches,provided food, water and clothing during the fIrst week. These services were later taken over by the U. S. Army. A generator-run street lamp was installed as looting and sightseers quickly became major problems. Malesofall ages, and mid-adult females, organized "police-patrols" in attempts to maintain order in Americana Village. The residents obtained water for bathing and washing goods by placing a generate-run pump into an existing well. During the third week, a "community laundromat"waserected, using salvaged washing machines. Communication networks were informal, with the mail man and an older Pandemonium Blvd. resident maintaining the central grapevine "switchboard." Both individuals felt a commitmenttoprotect the residents from misinformation as well as provide information.2


Each individual along Pandemonium Blvd. was accepted, regardlessofethnicity, age, and disaster-induced changes in socioeconomic status. Each adult, young and old, had an observable role during this immediate post-disaster phase. Activity was centered on community membership as a meansofsurvival. Younger adults provided the needed man-power and muscle-power for safety patrols and the movement and erectionofequipment. Older membersofthe group were able to call in old-debts and had the necessary political and social relationships for directing out-side assistance towards community good. Other aged served as symbolsofpast community safety and cohesiveness. Residents, on seeing the retired woman walking her dog among the rubble, recalled earlier occurrencesofseeing her when coming home, and thus knowing all was safe and secure. Material losses were freely discussed. When asked "What was the most meaningful thing you lost?", physical items were never mentioned in direct response. Residents emphasized the lossofself-identity which reflected the meaningoftheir homes and possessions in establishing present and future orientations to life. Remaining in the condemned community provided opportunity to re-defme and regain self identification. All ages responded in the same manner.Theconceptofbeing a victim changedtothatofsurvivorship by the endofthe second post-disaster week. Individuals felt secure in knowing that their personal future could be self controlled.Atthis point, the aged became the leaders in re-directing action for community revitalization. Residents living elsewhere were notifiedofthe effort as they returned for possessions. The goal became "Home for Christmas".Thesmall-group approachofcooperation for survival became a community approachtorebuilding. Short term goalsofre-establishing a potable water supply and sewage were assumed by the past manager. Younger male Pandemonium Blvd. residents, who had lost their previous employment duetohurricane damage, became the work crew. Older men were assigned investigative duties for the re-establishmentofelectricity, phone services and other related infra structure needs. 'The Condominium Association Board was re-established, with vacancies filled by Pandemonium Blvd. and other residents living locally. This board assumed responsibilities for the recreating the physical structuresofthe community. The governing Board served as a community representative and selectively negotiated with private contractors and state agencies for the goodofthe community. A former vice-presidentofthe board, a retired male, was placed in controlofmanaging land clearing and re-building. He servedtolink individuals with community action. Younger volunteers assisted, under his direction. Pandemonium Blvd. residents felt the timeofneighborhood clearing was also the timeofgreatest economic risk-taking, as failureofcommunity re-birth was feared as possible. Investmentsof$1,100 for debris removal would be lostifothers did commit to re-building. It was known that some past residents refusedtoreturn and their lots were for sale. Would land purchasebea profitable investment for the future or putting money into worthless land? Married couples with teen-age children were the initial risk-takers, frequently purchasing lots adjacent to their own. This was also the group that was the firsttoinvest in clearing. The aged residents were the second group to clear, although they did not invest in additional land. Those not residing on Pandemonium Blvd. were among the lasttoparticipate, regardlessofage.Bymid-December, all but 30ofthe 600 lots had been cleared. Over 50 new modular homes had been erected although not all had undergone the fmal state and local inspections. Although residents continued tobespatially separated by age, the pre-existing, pre-disaster, age bias in activities was missing. All agesattended the re-established Saturday morning coffee hours.TheThanksgiving Pot-luck dinner was attended by all boulevard residents. Schism between ages had beguntoemerge. The main sourceofconflict involved the creationofa recreational areas for children and teenagers. Younger parents wanted the associationtocreate a safe areas for play. Older individuals felt it was more importanttoinvest the association money in road and fencing repairs. Hintsofdecreased social status for the aged are beginning to emerge, with references occasionally madetoage-related limitations.3


DISCUSSIONEvery residentofPandemonium Boulevard made a commitmenttosurvival, with the hopeofrecovery. What set the residents apart from disaster victims in other areas was a commitmenttoplace. The banding together, and struggling against aversive forces, provided strength to the individuals and the group. The common bond, built on shared experience and situations, added forcetocommitmentThe ability to maintain a senseofcontrol over one's immediate post-disaster environment created a senseofcontrol over the future. Each step forward strengthened commitmenttorebuild and re-establish that which waslostThe resulting confidence led to early recognitionofsurvivorship, displacing feelingofvictimization and vulnerability. This was true for all ages. The sharingofpersonal, and collective, painful and happy experiences was an unplanned consequenceofthecommitmentThe disappearanceofthe past, upon which agebias was based, provided a new setting. Individuals were recognized for their contributions to the recovery process.' The aged provided necessary symbolsofthe past and age-related knowledge and power. Younger individuals provided strength and stamina for provisioning and reconstruction. With the passageoftime, the need for political and economic resources outpaced the need for symbolismofpast stability. Many aged altered their initial roles to fit new social needs that symbolized and promoted the future. Leadership and followship among the aged was determined by the ability to control political and economic resources. Such control also involved abilities to selectively incorporate the useofoutsideservice agencies effectively. The noted variations in sourcesofsocial approval and mechanisms to maintain social identity were similar to those found during the various phasesofthe disaster in Botswana (Guillette, 1991; 1992).Thespatial divisions between young and old, which were eliminated along Pandemonium Blvd., will resurface as new homes are replaced on previously owned lots. Social needs between the two geographical sidesofthe community will continue to differ. Whether or not the community can continueitsocial functions, and activities, without the pre-existing age bias is a question for the future.CONCLUSIONThis disaster-affected community was unique in that residentsofmixed ages united for individual survival and community re-birth. The emergent group was goal-orientated and purposeful in action for short and long-term recovery. The refusal to allow social destructionofthe community eradicated the previous community-based age bias. Life on Pandemonium Boulevard emphasized homogeneityofneed, andthus minimized social distances created by age. Mutual aid, and coping through supporting and helping others, promoted group unification. Stress was minimized and recovery maximized, as every individual was recognized for their unique contributions during the recovery periods. In this manner, Hurricane Andrew provided unifying and therapeutic features.4


References Cited Alexander, David. 1989. Preserving the Identity of Small Settlements during Post-Disaster Reconstruction in Italy.Disasters13:3:128-236.Bell, Bill D., Gail Kara and Constance Batterson. 1986. Service Utilization and Adjustment PatternofElderly Tornado Victims in an American Disaster.Mass Emergencies3:71-81.Guillette, ElizabethA.1991. The ImpactofRepeated Disasteronthe AgedofBotswana. Paper presentedtothe 50th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. March, 1991. Charleston,Sc.Guillette, ElizabethA.1992. Shifts in Leadership and Power AccordingtoAge During Disaster Recovery. Paper presentedtothe Society for Applied Anthropology, March, 1992. Memphis, TN. Johnston, Barbara and Judith Schulte. 1992. Natural Power and Power Plays in Watsonville, California, and theU.S.Virgin Islands. Paper presentedtothe Society for Applied Anthropology, March 26, 1992. Memphis, TN. Oliver-Smith, Anthony. 1986.The Martyred City: DeathandRebinh in the Andes.University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, NM. Parr, Arnold R. 1987. Disasters and Disabled Persons: An Examination of the Safety Needsofa Neglected Minority.Disasters11:148-153.Perry, Joseph B. andM.D. Pugh. 1978.Collective Behavior, Response to Social Stress.West Publishing Co. St. Paul, MN. Quarantelli, E. L. and RussellR.Dynes. 1977. Response to Social Crisis and Disaster.Annual ReviewofSociology 3:23-49.5