2014 will be the final year in the four-year “Step-Up” Campaign, part of the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR), which raises awareness and advocates for inclusive disaster risk reduction, each year focusing on the role of important actors such as – Children and Young People (2011), Women and Girls (2012), People living with Disability (2013) and Older Persons (2014). The vital need to acknowledge these actors as a resource for resilience and ensure their equal participation in resilience building needs to be recognized.

The world is changing rapidly. Globalization offers endless economic opportunities, but also has costs. Unsustainable land use and biodiversity loss are happening at an unprecedented speed. Global warming has seen a rise in temperature of about 0.8°C in the past century (with about two-thirds of this increase occurring since 1980), leading to greater environmental and climatic risks. A report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014 warned that climate change has become a threat to life and livelihoods while also being a factor in the rise of mega-disasters. These changes are occurring alongside rapid population growth and population ageing. The world population has quadrupled to 7 billion people in just over 100 years. Today, people aged over 60 constitute 11 per cent of the global population. By 2050, this proportion will have doubled, to 22 per cent – that is, 2 billion older persons. Populations are ageing most rapidly in developing countries, which are currently home to 60 per cent of the world’s older persons, projected to rise to 80 per cent by 2050. This collision of increasing global disaster risk and increasing numbers of potentially exposed older persons must be addressed at every level of disaster management planning to ensure that the impact of disaster does not continue to grow along with these trends.

As part of the activities leading to the International Day for Disaster Reduction celebrations in October, UNISDR and HelpAge are organizing a survey of both older persons and governments on issues related to ageing and DRR. We are inviting government disaster management personnel, other agencies and any one working in emergencies and disaster risk reduction or with an interest in the topic to complete this survey on their perception of older people in disaster risk reduction. This information will be very important in order to understand how older people are perceived in the context of disasters so as to identify not only their needs and requirements but also the valuable experience they can contribute. This information will also inform the messaging for the International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October 2014.