Actress Judith Light Joins National Council on Aging to Educate Adults 65 and Older about the Risks of Flu and the Importance of Annual Flu Vaccination

Washington, DC – Award-winning actress Judith Light, known for TV’s Who’s the Boss?, Dallas, and Ugly Betty, is joining the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to raise awareness about influenza (“the flu”) this season. The Flu + You program, a national public education initiative by NCOA, aims to educate adults 65 years of age and older, and those who care for them, about the seriousness of the flu, the importance of annual vaccination, and available vaccine options.

Light will appear in a Flu + You public service announcement (PSA) that shares information about the increased risk of flu in adults 65 years of age and older and the importance of understanding their flu vaccine options and getting an annual vaccine. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exception.i, ii

“I just turned 65 and I am busier than ever. I need to stay healthy and can’t let the flu slow me down, so I received my annual vaccination and learned there are different flu vaccine options for people 65 and older,” said Light. “I want to encourage others to speak with their doctor or pharmacist to find out more about simple steps they can take to help prevent the flu for themselves and the people they care about.”

“Research shows that the immune system weakens with age, which means older adults are more likely to catch the flu and that they can suffer greater complications because of other health issues,”iii said Albert Terrillion, DrPH, MEd, CPH, NCOA Senior Director for Clinical and Community Partnerships and Director of NCOA’s Self-Management Alliance. “Through Flu + You, we encourage all older adults to help protect themselves by getting vaccinated as early in the season as possible.”

The flu is a contagious illness that can be severe and life-threatening, especially for older adults.iv Adults aged 65 and older typically account for more than half (60 percent) of flu-related hospitalizations and almost all (90 percent) of flu-related deaths.iii The flu can make existing health problems worse and is especially dangerous for people with chronic conditions, which commonly affect older adults.v In fact, among adults 65 years of age and older, 41 percent have diabetes, 42 percent have coronary disease, and 16 percent have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.vi Furthermore, 86 percent of adults aged 65 and older have at least one chronic condition,vii and 68 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more,viii which makes flu vaccination all the more important in this age group.

Adults 65 years of age and older have flu vaccine options, including the traditional, standard-dose vaccine and a higher-dose vaccine specifically designed to address the age-related weakening of the immune system. The higher-dose flu vaccine, which includes four times the antigen compared with the standard-dose vaccine, triggers the body to produce more antibody against the flu virus.ix Older adults should speak with their health care provider about the risk of catching the flu and how it can be prevented, including the best vaccine option for them. Flu vaccination is a Medicare Part B benefit, which means there is no copay for eligible beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.

For more facts about flu, including sharable infographics and other content or to watch the PSA featuring Light or order free educational materials, including a brochure and fact sheet, visit www.ncoa.org/Flu.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.

About Flu + You

Flu + You, a national public education initiative, sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, educates adults 65 years of age and older and those who care for them about the seriousness of the flu, the importance of prevention, and available vaccine options. Older adults and their caregivers can learn more on the Flu + You website, www.ncoa.org/Flu, which features a public service announcement with Judith Light, and facts about the flu. Also available on the website is a calendar of Flu + You events that will be held in 13 cities throughout the United States from late-August to early-October. At the events, older adults will have the opportunity to learn more about their risks for flu and available vaccine options.

i Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014.

ii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm. Accessed on March 28, 2014.

iii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm. Accessed on March 28, 2014.

iv Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm. Accessed May 15, 2014.

v Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014.

vi Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260). 2014.

vii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Percent of U.S. Adults 55 and Over with Chronic Conditions. Percent of U.S. Adults 55 and Over with Chronic Conditions. www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/adult_chronic_conditions.htm. Accessed March 28, 2014.

viii Lochner KA, Cox CS. Prevalence of Multiple Chronic Conditions among Medicare Beneficiaries, United States, 2010. Prev Chronic Dis 2013;10:120137.

ix Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014.