Older people without computer skills in a society dependent on technology can face frustrating barriers.
Seniors age 65 and older in Georgia are eligible to get the vaccine to protect them from contracting or getting seriously ill from COVID-19. The problem some seniors appear to be facing is that they are not computer-literate, and without assistance cannot navigate the internet in order to make an appointment to be vaccinated.
“If you don’t do computers you can’t do (this),” Social Circle resident Debbie Conner Smith said.
Smith, a local Realtor who is in her 60s, said her husband was gravely ill with the coronavirus earlier last year. He is in his 80s, she said.
“I had to keep checking and finally I got on the Walmart site at 1:30 a.m. to see if any appointments had opened up,” Smith said. Slots had opened up, and she made her husband’s appointment at the Walmart store’s pharmacy in Athens. She said they are also fortunate they are able to make the drive. Having a vehicle or being able to arrange transportation to vaccine appointments is a challenge for some seniors, Smith said.
“I’ve got several seniors I’m helping right now to get them their appointments,” she said.
Smith said someone from the Health Department did call her this week to see if her husband had received his shot. She commented they had “signed him up months ago.”
“I agree it has been difficult for many seniors,” Vickie Gasaway, Walton County Senior Citizens Council executive director, said. “I have three staff members who are available to actually register members for the vaccine. If they are not members but age 60-plus, we will provide them with the web address and steps to follow to register themselves. Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough staff to actually register all potential senior candidates for the vaccine. We are transporting seniors, primarily members who live in the city of Monroe, to get their vaccine.”
Gasaway said she and staff have registered about 40 center members for vaccinations. They work closely with the public Health Department, she said.
Gasaway said the vaccine has garnered mixed reactions from the seniors she serves. Some are reticent to get vaccinated, she said.
“Anything new is going to be a concern, I think.”
Gasaway commented that once these wary seniors’ peers are vaccinated and let their cautious friends know they experienced no major side effects, then more seniors should be less worried about getting the vaccine.
In a newsletter sent to the senior center’s members, seniors or their caregivers can preregister them for the vaccine at publichealthathens.
According to the newsletter instructions, once on the website click on district-wide programs, then infectious disease, then coronavirus (COVID-19) information, then COVID-19 vaccine. From that page, click on the vaccine preregistration form and follow the prompts.
In addition to assisting with vaccine registration, the center has been working with several organizations to meet seniors’ other needs, according to Gasaway. The center has partnered with Action Inc. out of Athens through the Full Plate Program, she said. The program reaches out to restaurants like Chick-fil-A to provide meals to people who need them.
“While we’re not open to seniors coming in to our centers yet, we still are preparing and delivering meals to them as well as offering a drive-through for members on Mondays and Thursdays,” Gasaway said. “We continue to watch the positive numbers (for decline in COVID-19 cases) in hopes that we’ll be able to reopen soon.”
For other resources for older adults, visit georgiaadrc.com or call the Northeast Georgia Area Agency on Aging at 800-474-7540.
To locate other vaccine providers, visit dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.