Sixteen case studies examined the impact of various natural disasters and conflict-related emergencies on older people, the strengths and gaps in emergency planning, response and recovery, and the contributions older people made to their families and communities. Case examples were chosen from both developed and developing countries. Older persons suffered disproportionate impacts in several cases. Regardless of the country’s level of prosperity, those most affected tended to be economically disadvantaged, disabled or frail, women, socially isolated, or caregivers of family members. Emergency responders were often not aware of distinct needs or abilities of older persons and not equipped to respond appropriately. The best emergency practices recognised and included specific needs within mainstream efforts and integrated older persons in community planning, response and recovery activities. This paper presents the ‘lessons learned’ from these case studies and makes the case for greater attention to this segment of the population in emergency management.