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Flood Aftermath: One month later, are seniors falling through the cracks?

AARP hosts meeting with flood responders to gauge impact on 50+ Tennesseans

Nashville, TN – Devastating storms that swept through Tennessee, killing two dozen people and flooding thousands out of their homes and businesses, hit seniors especially hard. On Wednesday, one month after the rains subsided, AARP convened a meeting with emergency responders and representatives of the aging community to find out whether the needs of 50+ Tennesseans are being met.

“We want to make sure that no one falls through the cracks,” AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly said after Wednesday’s meeting. “If there are people who need help, we want to make sure that they are connected with people who can help.”

State officials don’t yet have a demographic breakdown on the flood, but in Davidson County alone, an AARP analysis of flooded properties and an overlay of census data shows that one-third of the people living in the two hardest-hit areas are at least Medicare age (65). Most of the people who died in the floods were over 50 years old.

Jane Young with the Greater Nashville Regional Council, which serves as the Area Agency on Aging and Disability for 13 Middle Tennessee counties, said the floods have created an entirely new class of people needing services.

“They’re in shock. They don’t know how to work through the system,’’ she said. “They’re overwhelmed.”

For seniors and other special populations, there are special needs that will have to be addressed by social service organizations as the state moves forward with recovery, meeting attendees said.

Many seniors left their homes with only the clothes they were wearing and still need help getting basic necessities, restoring Medicare and Social Security benefits and refilling prescriptions. As the recovery process moves forward, they’ll quickly need to consider housing options and may need long-term mental health services. Their families may need caregiving resources and assistance in helping loved ones navigate the system.

It can be very complicated and confusing, but officials say the very first step should be to apply for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Nearly 64,000 Tennesseans have applied to FEMA, which has paid out $130 million in grants to date, according to Cecil Whaley of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

To get additional assistance like low-interest loans, flood victims must then apply for assistance from the Small Business Administration – even if they are not business owners.

“People need to act now. They cannot afford to wait,’’ Kelly said.

A statewide assistance line operated by the United Way can connect flood victims with volunteers to help clean up and to provide information and resources. Just call 211 or go online to view a list of resources for your area: http://tn211.mycommunitypt.com

People with questions about maneuvering through the system can call a toll-free legal assistance line at 1-888-395-9297.

Also at the meeting were representatives from Hands On Nashville, the Red Cross, United Way, the Council on Aging, Fifty Forward senior centers and AARP Tennessee staff and volunteer leaders.

For more about AARP Tennessee and other flood recovery information, please visit www.aarp.org/tn, www.facebook.com/aarptennessee or www.twitter.com/aarptn.

About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole.  AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates.  We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s nearly 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, www.AARP.org

AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors.  We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


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