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Elders and Hurricane Sandy

Posted Nov 02 2012 8:30am

Look at this amazing photograph of a city divided by power or the lack of it.

Power Divided Skyline - Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Uptown, where there is power, is its usual bright and shiny self. Downtown has disappeared into the dark.

It is electricity that makes big-city, high-rise living possible. It powers the elevators that whisk residents to and from their upper-level aeries but when disaster strikes, as now, those homes can become deadly, especially for the old and disabled.

”For Rosa Reyes, 75, going from her 18th-floor New York apartment to the street is no longer an option after Sandy’s hurricane-force winds cut power, and with it, elevator service, days ago,” reports .

“'I can’t go down no stairs because I’m disabled,' Reyes said, leaning on a wooden cane and pointing to her knee. Her food is holding up, and neighbors have brought jugs of water. So she’s all right, for now at least.”

Ms. Reyes, along with hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers still in the dark and cold, needs the water delivered because it is, of course, electricity that powers the pumps that push water to the upper level apartments for washing, cooking, drinking and toilet flushing.

Over at naked capitalism , a reader named Nathan telephoned in some observations he made around lower Manhattan where the optimistic prediction for the return of electricity is Saturday or Sunday. An example:

”[Nathan] spent some of the day volunteering at a home for the disabled and blind near him, which houses a couple of hundred people. He hauled pails of water up stairs to help flush out toilets. They were expecting a delivery of food from the National Guard by 6:00 PM and when he left, as of 7 PM, it had not arrived.

”He’s generally concerned about the home-bound disabled and elderly in townhouses, because some may not have people watching out for them...because landlines are down too (as in unless they have a charged cell, and a lot of older people aren’t keen about cell phones, they have no way of calling for assistance).”

From what is known so far, there have been remarkably few deaths but there are a pronounced number of elders among the few, as the New York Daily News reports :

”Safar Shafinoori, 84, of Roslyn, was killed by a falling tree.

“A bedridden 75-year-old Manhattan woman died after her oxygen machine lost power, the backup failed and her family could not get help fast enough to save her.

“The body of a 55-year-old man was found in an empty retail space at 90 Broad St. in lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning. Police said it appears he was swept into the building by a 4-foot-deep river of water that smashed the glass front of the building.

“At 92 Laight St. in Tribeca, a middle-aged parking garage worker was killed when he got trapped in the basement by flash flooding.”

And in the Rockaways, three people in their 50s and a 72-year-old man were found drowned in their homes.

Unrelated to Hurricane Sandy, yesterday a winter preparedness guide arrived in the mail from the City of Lake Oswego where I live. Among the suggestions is for elders to sign up with a remarkable program, Operation Alert, for older adults living in the town.

A joint project of the police, the fire department and the Adult Community Center (ACC), the free service provides a daily telephone call to registered participants in times of emergencies such as prolonged heat, severe winter storms and power outages.

After speaking with the participants, ACC volunteers relay any needs and concerns to the appropriate authorities for followup.

It would be worth it for everyone to check around and see if there is such a service in your community.

When Hurricane Sandy struck, 50-year-old Greenwich Village resident, Tim McDarragh, told his mother to remain in North Carolina where she had been visiting friends rather than return to New York City:

“'Thirty floors without an elevator, a light bulb, or a drop of running water is no place for an 80-year-old woman to spend a week,' McDarrah [told Bloomberg ]. 'God forbid there’s a fire.'”

One more little note for you at The Elder Storytelling Place this week and then stories will be return next Monday.

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