claire pendergrast

MPH Environmental Health, Class of 2019

What is your research topic?

My masters thesis is studying the role of community-based organizations, specifically senior centers, in disaster resilience. I'm interviewing senior center directors to understand what role they see for their center in supporting older adults' disaster resilience. I also hope to learn about how government and non-profit partners could support senior centers and their members to ensure that older adults aren't disproportionately impacted by disasters like earthquakes, heatwaves, and severe storms.

Who are you partnering with to conduct your research?

Age Friendly Seattle, City of Seattle Human Services Department Emergency Management, and Public Health - Seattle & King County

What is the geographical focus of your research?

King County, Washington

How can the findings of your research impact or inform resilience to extreme events?

Working with community organizations like senior centers has the potential to get older adults more engaged in thinking about and planning for a disaster. I hope the results of my thesis will provide helpful recommendations and will spark conversations and collaborations to build resilience for Seattle's older adults.

What have you learned from working on this project? How will it inform your future work/career?

Partnerships with local organizations are critical to designing and implementing meaningful research projects. Understanding local context takes time, but community partners are often enthusiastic about collaboration, and the connections that come from relationships with local leaders are invaluable. I've also learned to be humble and listen to the priorities of communities and practitioners, even when they differ from my specific research focus. In my future work and career, I plan to analyze and advocate for social policies that support healthy aging and resilience on an everyday basis and in a disaster.