Seniors Without Family or Friends Lag in Vaccine RateFebruary 1, 2021
Knowing they couldn’t navigate vaccine registration systems on their own, Quigley spent hours online trying to secure appointments for her parents.
After encountering a host of problems — frequent error messages, information she inputted suddenly getting wiped out on vaccine registration sites, calendars with disappearing-by-the-second appointments, incorrect notices that her parents didn’t quality — Quigley arranged for her mother to be vaccinated in mid-January and for her father to get his first shot a few weeks later.
Language issues are also a significant hurdle for older Hispanics, who “are not being offered information on vaccines in a way they understand or in Spanish,” said Yanira Cruz, president and chief executive officer of the National Hispanic Council on Aging.
“I’m very concerned that older adults who are not fluent in English, who don’t have a family member to help them navigate online, and who don’t have access to private transportation are going to be left out” during this rollout, she said.
None of the older adults living in two low-income housing complexes run by her organization in Washington, D.C., and Garden City, Kansas, have received vaccines, Cruz said. “We should be bringing the vaccines to where seniors live, not asking them to take a bus, expose themselves to other people, and try to find their way to a clinic,” she said.
Nothing can substitute for a friend or family member determined to make sure an older loved one is protected against covid. Joanna Stolove has played that role for her father, 82, who is blind and has congestive heart failure, and her mother, 74, who has Lewy body dementia.
The couple lives in Nassau County on New York’s Long Island and receives 40 hours of care at home each week.
Stolove, a geriatric social worker, took time during work to try to get her father an appointment, but many people don’t have that luxury. She works at a naturally occurring retirement community in Morningside Heights, a diverse neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
With substantial effort, Stolove secured an appointment for her father at a large drive-in vaccine site on Jones Beach on Jan. 26; her sister found an appointment for her mother there in late February. At work, where many of her clients live alone and don’t have family members or friends whom they can rely on for help, she counsels them about vaccines and tries to find appointments on their behalf.