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Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that can be severe and life-threatening, especially for older adults. Vaccination is the best way to help protect yourself from the flu and help prevent its spread to others.

 

The immune system weakens with age, making it harder to fight disease. As a result, the flu can be severe for adults 65 years of age and older.

  • This age group typically accounts for more than half of flu-related hospitalizations and almost all flu-related deaths.
  • In fact, influenza, combined with pneumonia, is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States in people 65 years of age and older.

The flu can be dangerous for older adults as chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can worsen as a result of the flu.

  • People with these conditions are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death.
  • Chronic health conditions commonly affect older adults:
    • 86% of adults 65 years of age and older have at least one chronic condition, and 68% of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more.
    • Among adults 65 years of age and older, roughly 20% have diabetes, and about 30% have heart disease.

Adults 65 years of age and older should try to get vaccinated as early as possible.

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the single best way to help prevent the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination, which is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exception.
  • In fact, it is estimated that during the 2014-2015 flu season, almost 58,000 hospitalizations were averted due to vaccination in people 65 years of age and older.
  • For older adults, it is especially important to try to get vaccinated early in the season, which has been shown to be associated with greater benefit compared to later in the season.

Talk to your health care provider about your flu vaccine options.

  • A higher-dose vaccine was developed specifically to address the age-related weakening of the immune system.
  • Flu vaccination is a Medicare benefit with no copay. A higher-dose vaccine is widely available; talk to your health care provider about flu vaccine options.

To view, download, print or share useful resources about the flu and seniors, click here.

Flu + You is a collaboration between the National Council on Aging and Sanofi Pasteur.