USA: Poor, elderly and too frail to escape: Paradise fire killed the most vulnerable residents
By Laura Newberry
Like the women who died in Ridgewood Mobile Home Park [during the 2018 California fires in Paradise], most of the 86 people who died in the fire were seniors. Of the 69 bodies that have been positively identified, 53 were over the age of 65 — or 77%.
Decades of research confirm that the physical limitations that accompany advanced age make it much more difficult to escape disaster, but so do the social isolation and stubbornness that experts say are common among the elderly.
And when poverty accompanies old age — as it did for many in Paradise, an affordable retirement enclave in a region gripped by a housing crisis — the risk of death is compounded.
Yet, if there’s a greater feeling of unity within a neighborhood, seniors are less likely to experience the negative health impacts of isolation during a crisis, said Allison Heid, an independent research consultant who studies adult development and aging.