Self-efficacy and learning processes associated with the elderly during disasters and crises

Kenneth A. Lachlan, Patric R. Spence, Xialing Lin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Learning during a natural disaster may be particularly important for older adults, as often the elderly are among the most susceptible to loss of life, health, or property. Although age and learning in the context of natural disasters has received little scholarly attention, much is known about the relationship between age and learning in other contexts, especially with regard to self-efficacy. In general, research has found that older individuals lack confidence in their own ability to master a new skill (Knowles, 1973). Organizational studies have indicated that older individuals may be less likely than others to adopt behaviors to which they have low self-efficacy, (Fossum et al, 1986), while other studies indicate reluctance to training and redevelopment activities (Cleveland & Shore, 1992; Rosen, Williams, & Foltman, 1965). The efficacy problems of older audiences seem to revolve around reappraisals and misappraisals of their capabilities. Since self-efficacy is in part determined by comparisons to others (Bandura, 1977), older individuals will likely perceive even less self-efficacy if they do not have similar behavioral models against which to compare their own; older individuals may have fewer opportunities to observe models of the same age successfully navigate a crisis. This chapter examines various means of promoting accurate appraisals of efficacy within older populations, including both behavioral practice and mediated interventions. It focuses on the development of public service announcements and warning systems featuring appropriate behavioral models, the underlying psychological mechanisms that may lead to their success, and specific obstacles faced by older audiences when processing evacuation messages. Previous studies have showed that as a vulnerable population, the elderly face higher threats of injury and loss in a disaster. This can be seen through an examination of Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana; 49% of the 971 confirmed deaths were of individuals 75 years or older. By way of comparison, data from the 2000 census indicates that 11.7% of the overall population of New Orleans fell into this age bracket (Kamo, Henderson, & Roberto, 2011). Guaranteeing the health and safety of older individuals during an evacuation is a critical consideration for disaster managers and first responders. Although the specific risk factors endemic to the elderly during natural disasters have been studied extensively, little is known about motivating factors for this demographic that may be critical in getting them to reduce their susceptibility to a natural disaster and experience efficacy. This chapter will propose various means of promoting accurate appraisals of self-efficacy within older populations. These include the use of televised warning messages featuring individuals perceived to be similar. The chapter will also examine the relationship between emotional and cognitive appeals, and the utility of both cognitive and affective appeals in reaching older audiences. Finally, specific needs and barriers to evacuation associated with older audiences will be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNatural Disasters
Subtitle of host publicationPrevention, Risk Factors and Management
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781622576760
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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