New National Council on Aging Survey Shows Many Seniors Underestimate the Seriousness of the Flu, Largely Unaware of Vaccine Options1
Arlington, VA – Two-time Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Judith Light and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) are teaming up for the second year on the national educational initiative Flu + You to educate older adults and those who care for them about the seriousness of influenza (“the flu”), the importance of prevention and available vaccine options.
Light, currently starring in the upcoming Broadway play Therese Raquin and the Emmy-nominated show Transparent, is appearing this fall in a new public service announcement in support of the campaign. This year, Flu + You will also unveil results from a survey conducted to highlight flu awareness among people aged 65 years and older.
Influenza is a contagious illness that can be severe and life-threatening, especially for older adults. One reason that flu can be severe for seniors is the immune system weakens with age, which makes it harder to fight disease.2,3 The flu can also make existing health problems worse and is especially dangerous for people with chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, which often affect older adults. People with these conditions are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death.4
The flu hits older adults the hardest, yet the Flu + You survey found that many seniors underestimate the seriousness of the flu and are largely unaware of their vaccine options. “I turned 65 last year, and even though I still feel healthy and active, I know people my age are more susceptible to the flu and its complications,” said Light. “If you’re 65 or older like me, talk to your health care provider about your flu vaccine options, and get vaccinated early before it’s too late.”
The survey, fielded before the start of this flu season, included more than 1,000 Americans 65 years of age and older and found:
- Only 13 percent of seniors are extremely confident in their knowledge of possible flu complications.1
- About one third are unaware that someone with chronic health conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, would be at risk for complications from the flu.1
- More than half (57 percent) are unaware there is a flu shot specifically for their age group.1
- Only 8 percent are concerned about getting the flu despite the high hospitalization rates in seniors, highlighting the need for further education about the seriousness of the flu.1,6
- Most seniors (88 percent) take a proactive approach to their health; however, about as many are not confident in their knowledge of the flu and where to get flu information.1
“Adults 65 and over typically account for roughly half of flu-related hospitalizations and almost all flu-related deaths,5 so the low awareness among seniors about the seriousness of the flu is concerning,” said Kathleen Cameron, MPH, Senior Director, National Council on Aging. “In our survey, 82 percent of seniors said they are not extremely confident in where to find information about the flu1—and that is what we are here for, to provide the further education and resources needed when it comes to the flu.”
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 aged six months and older, with rare exception.6,7 Older adults have flu vaccine options, including the regular flu shot and a higher-dose vaccine developed specifically to address the age-related weakening of the immune system. Flu vaccination is a Medicare benefit with no copay. Both options are widely available at a doctor’s office or local pharmacy.
For more facts about the flu, additional Flu + You survey results and the public service announcement featuring Light, visit www.ncoa.org/Flu. The website also provides educational materials about the flu that can be shared, downloaded and printed.
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 important facts about the flu. Also available on the website is a calendar of Flu + You events that will be held in 10 cities throughout the United States from late August to early October. At the events, seniors will have the opportunity to learn more about their risks for flu and available vaccine options.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Its 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.organd @NCOAging.
1 Kelton Global. National Council on Aging Survey in Collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm. Accessed March 26, 2015.
3 CDC. Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm. Accessed March 26, 2015.
4 CDC. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Accessed March 26, 2015.
5 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 26, 2015.
6 CDC. Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm. Accessed March 26, 2015.
7 CDC. Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm. Accessed on March 26, 2015.