Jimmy Davey and Brianna Garrette: Our Summer at the AgeLab

by Taylor Patskanick

Hi there! My name is Jimmy Davey and I, along with Brianna Garrette, am a high school intern working with Dr. Joseph Coughlin and the MIT AgeLab this summer to explore the concept of “disaster age-readiness.” In the United States, it is common for older adults to retire to regions where natural disasters are increasingly more likely to occur due to climate change. While natural disasters impact everyone, older adults and their physical wellbeing are among the most vulnerable to the immediate aftermath of natural disasters (Vukosava, Seff & Rothman, 2008). Older adults also tend to have higher fatality and death rates during natural disaster situations compared to other age groups, according to the Brookings Institute.

Dr. Coughlin brought these data and ideas to us and asked Brianna and I to work towards the goal of developing an index of “disaster age-readiness.” There are already a few livability and “age-friendly” indices (see AARP) designed to help older individuals make informed decisions about where they might would like to live. In creating our “disaster age-ready” index, we hope to prompt cities and communities to improve emergency services specifically for older adults during disaster.

This index takes into account the pre-event, during the event, and post-event precautions, resources, plans necessary for local agencies to consider to lessen the impact of natural disasters on their older residents. We have spent this summer working on developing this disaster age-readiness index through a series of interviews with local emergency services and older adults (operationalized as 65+ years of age) who live in our own communities. Jimmy and I both live in places Dr. Coughlin refer to as “cone of uncertainty” areas; I in Boca Raton, Florida and Jimmy in greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These areas refer places in the U.S. where climate change may continue to contribute to more extreme natural disaster events in the future.

During our time interning with the MIT AgeLab, we were introduced to a cooperative work environment full of passionate individuals. Despite working with each other remotely, we felt that everyone was very helpful and supportive of each other. Over the summer, we had opportunities to learn about all of the amazing projects that are happening at the AgeLab and learned a few life lessons along the way. While engaging in our project in particular, we gained a greater perspective and understanding of the needs of today’s older adults and have developed much more compassion for them. We hope that by sharing some of our research with you, you might gain some of the same compassion we did.

Jimmy Davey lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania and is a senior at The Haverford School. Jimmy enjoyed his summer as an intern for the MIT AgeLab. He looks forward to continuing his research with Dr. Coughlin, and maybe even stopping by the lab for an in-person visit one day.

Brianna Garrette lives in Boca Raton, FL and attends high school at American Heritage Palm Beach Campus where she is a current junior. The summer of 2021 was her first summer interning for the MIT AgeLab. Brianna is excited to continue to work with Dr. Joseph Coughlin and her fellow interns into the fall!

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About the Author

Photo of Taylor Patskanick
Taylor Patskanick

Taylor Patskanick is a Technical Associate at the MIT AgeLab. Her research explores generational and age demographic trends across domains such as housing, transportation and retirement planning. Taylor co-coordinates the MIT AgeLab 85+ Lifestyle Leaders panel and contributes to the AgeLab’s AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) program. She also manages OMEGA (Opportunities for Multigenerational Exchange, Growth, and Action), an intergenerational summit and scholarship program. Taylor is particularly interested in the role of intergenerational programming in shaping careers in aging and lifelong social and civic engagement.

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