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Aging Families Continue Struggle in Katrina Aftermath

Aging families affected by Hurricane Katrina have experienced both physical and emotional problems in the aftermath of the disaster, //and many yearn to 'go back home,' according to preliminary findings from a team of researchers.

Karen Roberto, director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology, has teamed with Tammy Henderson, formerly of Virginia Tech and the newly appointed director of the Institute for Gerontology at Oklahoma State University, and with Yoshinori Kamo, a sociology professor from Louisiana State University, to discern who and what is helping these seniors regain some stability and rebuild their lives.

The research team conducted over 100 interviews with elders over a six-month period. During interviews done in February and March, the older adults consistently talked about going back to the life they knew it in New Orleans. As one elderly woman explained, “One way or the other I am going back to New Orleans. I like New Orleans and here [Baton Rouge] it's okay, but the places is so far apart; you have to go miles to take care of your business. In New Orleans all you do is step outside and catch the bus you know and go where you are going and take care of your business. Then you step outside, catch a bus and come on back home.”

Roberto said that elders interviewed later in the year appeared much more resigned, or perhaps realistic in assessing their living situation. They have visited their gutted homes and describe their neighborhoods as “desolate and depressing.” Some were exploring their housing options in New Orleans, the Baton Rouge area, and elsewhere while others noted that they are “in limbo” and do not know for sure what they will do.

The researchers have found that the elderly employ a variety of strategies to deal with the uncertainty of their situation. Many cope with their destiny with religion, while others find solace with actively planning their futures. Others move forward by merely ac
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