Elderly and Aging Populations

Relationships and Networks: Those living with family and/or caregivers are more likely to engage in vaccinations than those who are living alone (based on studies of influenza vaccinations). Specify by age-range.

Here are some guidelines for reaching the elderly and aging populations

  • Tailor COVID-19 messaging to address different living situations of the aging populations in your communities. They will have different motivators.

  • Message directly to the caregivers of the elderly to motivate, educate, and create awareness around COVID vaccinations.

  • Specify who is your primary audience. Not all elderly identify as “older adult and/or at risk”.

  • Recognize the tendency to be biased toward seniors we know. Be careful of individual bias in your content strategy - content writing to cater to one’s own grandparent, rather than writing for the population you’re targeting and the diversity therein.

Example of tailored messaging from Health Care Person-Centered view

Individual Factors: A person’s attitudes, skills, and behaviors are shaped by their personal experiences, including their relationships with others and access to opportunities. In aging populations, these factors can be influenced not only by age, but also by their cultural constructs of health and wellness, educational level, independence, agency over their health decisions, and more.

  • Address those who have not utilized medical services in the past 3 months. Medical service use is another influencing factor of vaccine uptake. Target your messaging to those less likely to have already received prior notices on vaccine availability. If they have not received medical services recently, they also have not received medically-vetted information about vaccine availability from a medical professional they trust or know.

  • Recognize perceived barriers and offer a solution. Some individuals, particularly those who are still independent, may have perceived transportation inconvenience (lack of access) or financial concerns. Acknowledge perceived barriers and highlight solutions in your messaging (e.g., clarity on the cost of the vaccine and clarify that there are no hidden costs by healthcare providers; help them locate facilities near public transportation options).

  • Highlight expected differences in transient COVID vaccine side effects in comparison to vaccines they are more familiar with. Many individuals in this age range are familiar with the Shingles vaccine, which is communicated to potentially disrupt up to 3 days of daily behavior.

  • Do not assume tech illiteracy. Tech literacy is growing amongst the 50+ community, thus closing the mobile divide more than ever. According to the AARP, smartphone adoption is up to 81% for those 60 to 69 surveyed (n= 849/2607 ), and 62% of those 70+ (n= 776/2607 ).

  • Do not assume they are digital natives. Although digitally engaged, it’s still important to consider that this population is not a digital native. So, it’s important to create a User Interface flow to address questions and route to online booking (maybe not their first preference) versus calling into hotlines/call centers (perhaps their first assumed step).

Physiological Factors: With age comes many health challenges, both chronic and acute. As such, many aging community members are relying on healthcare services and/or care networks (family or institutional) to address their day-to-day needs. For vaccine communication, it’s key to address any interrelationships between age, medications, and immunological factors that are considerations for vaccine uptake OR contribute to potential vaccine hesitancy.

  • Consider visual impairment needs. Use large fonts and ample spacing between lines of text in both digital and print assets. If print materials are being provided, use matte paper stock (high gloss causes a glare) and high contrast between text and background.

  • Amplify utility of written content to cater to those with hearing loss. The benefits of reducing call-volume are twofold: workforce scalability and better patient experiences for those who may require assistance due to hearing-loss. By emphasizing motivation to share more print/digital content to reach those with hearing impairment, you also reach many others. This concept is called the curb-cut effect. Half of US adults 60+ have hearing loss.

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