I’m a strong believer in the importance of seniors in our lives. While my own grandfather helped to form my initial opinions on how much seniors contribute to society, I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many other amazing seniors as well, from employers to neighbours to family friends.
So, with cold and flu season approaching, I can’t help but think about the risks and dangers that the time of year brings to the senior generation. In fact, seniors accounted for 70% of all influenza-related hospitalizations and 90% of all influenza-related deaths during the 2014-015 flu season!
Even worse, seniors with chronic conditions face even greater risks. Influenza is known to worsen conditions including diabetes and may even trigger a heart attack or stroke. So how can we help protect the seniors that have given so much to us over their lives?
The good news is that with the development of the flu vaccine, seniors have a way of protecting themselves from the dangers of seasonal influenza. While the traditional flu vaccine is an important option for seniors, it can be up to 50% less effective in those over 65 years of age. Thankfully, a higher-dose vaccine especially for seniors over age 65 was approved by Health Canada in September of 2015!
But unfortunately, as is often the case with newer vaccines, the higher-dose vaccine is not currently part of the majority of provincial or territorial flu programs. And I think it’s time for that to change! After all, so many seniors have spent their entire lives, including their senior years, giving back to their families and their communities in every way they can. Making sure seniors are protected during flu season is such a small way of giving them the support they deserve!
Personally, in addition to protecting her with the standard dose flu shot, I’ll also be ensuring that my mother knows about the higher-dose flu vaccine this year. While she’s not quite at her 65th birthday yet, she’s just a year or two away from it. And having just beat breast cancer last year, she’s had challenges with her body’s immune system after the ravages of chemotherapy. If there’s a way of helping her make it through the bitter winter months in good health once she turns 65, I want her to take it!
But even more than that, I’ll be raising my voice in support of seniors to help ensure they have access to the health care they deserve. You can visit http://carp.ca/flu to learn how you can help the seniors in your life this flu season.
Of course, there are no guarantees in life and sometimes, as happened with my grandfather, we lose those that we love sooner than we would have wished. But when a small preventative measure like a flu vaccine can help protect our loved ones, it just makes sense to take advantage of it!
If you’re over 65, ask your doctor about the higher-dose flu vaccine this year and see if it might be a good choice for you. And if you have seniors in your life that could benefit from the vaccine, make sure to encourage them to talk to their doctor about their flu vaccine options!
To learn more about the flu in seniors, visit carp.ca/flu.