03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Haiti's Elderly: What About Them?

Anderson Cooper of CNN, reporting from Haiti on Wednesday night, said, "Wherever you are, hug a loved one close and thank God you are not in Port-au-Prince tonight."

I'd add, "that you're not an old person trying to cope in Port-au-Prince tonight".

We don't think about what it means to be old when a crisis like this hits. Imagine what it's like when it's hard to get through an average day -- and now you've got to stand in line for hours for medical care, walk miles for fresh water, or sleep rough. Some 800,000 Haitians are over 60. Most of these older people live in extreme poverty and many of them have lost their homes and loved ones. Immediate needs for older Haitians and their families include shelter, food, water and medical attention--including measures to prevent the spread of infection due to the hot temperatures on the island.

HelpAge is the only international relief agency that focuses on the unique needs of older people in an emergency. The AARP Foundation has just established a relief fund to aid efforts aimed at older earthquake victims in Haiti and is working with HelpAge USA and its international parent HelpAge International to rush emergency relief to older earthquake victims (HelpAge has on-the-ground experience in Haiti).

One hundred percent of donations to the AARP Foundation Haiti Relief Fund will go directly to those most in need. And the AARP will match donations up to $500,000.

"Working together with the AARP Foundation creates an incredible opportunity to build HelpAge USA's capacity to respond in this crisis," said Marilyn Grist, HelpAge USA executive director. "Together we can respond to the special needs of Haiti's seniors, many of whom are the sole caretakers of their grandchildren and of orphans."

Read more about what HelpAge is doing in Haiti. Learn what they're doing around the world 24/7. And find out how you can help.