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On This Grandparents Day Encourage Vaccination among the Older Adults in Your Life

September 13, 2015   |   Alliance for Aging Research Team   |   Prevention, Infectious Disease, Vaccination (Health Education)

Today is Grandparents Day, an opportunity for families to make a special effort to appreciate their grandparents. This Grandparents Day, Generations United (GU)—a national organization that promotes intergenerational collaboration, policies, and programs—is encouraging families to “Do Something Grand” by engaging with the older adults in their lives through physical activity, advocacy, and a number of other actions to promote relationship-building and healthy aging.

I love the idea to #DoSomethingGrand, as GU’s Twitter hashtag suggests. Rather than being only a “Hallmark holiday,” Grandparents Day can be about cultivating your relationships with the older adults in your life.

And, if you are looking for ideas on how to show that you care, we have a suggestion: Spend time talking about the importance of adult vaccination.

Vaccines are available for many of the most common and deadly infectious diseases in older Americans and can save countless lives and health care dollars. But unfortunately, vaccination rates in seniors fall far short of target rates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is a really big problem because each year between five and 10 million Americans acquire pneumonia, 35 to 50 million are afflicted with influenza, and one million get shingles. Older Americans are much more likely to get these infections and to suffer from complications and death. The death rate from pneumonia and influenza combined is close to 130 times higher in people ages 85 and older as compared to people ages 45 to 54. (Go here to see more related stats.)

But access to information about the importance of vaccines can make a significant difference in utilization. The Alliance released a report in late July, Our Best Shot: Expanding Prevention through Vaccination in Older Adults, which offers recommendations on how industry, government, and health care experts can make a difference.

We need to raise the level of importance of immunization among seniors to the level we currently have for children, and then we need to make some basic changes to support it. In the meantime, celebrate Grandparents Day with those you love and #DoSomethingGrand by spreading the word about the value of vaccines.

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