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The New York Times

Seniors looking for vaccines have a problem: they can’t use the internet

Annette Carlin feels trapped. Before the pandemic, 84-year-old Carlin loved walking around Novato, California with her grandchildren and dancing at the senior center. Since March, however, she has been stuck inside. She can’t wait to sign up for a vaccine and get back to living a normal life. But making an appointment has been a technological nightmare. Carlin couldn’t afford a computer and couldn’t browse the Internet for a photo, even if she could. Although her family may be able to help her there, she avoids viewing them as a safety measure. Sign up for The Morning New York Times newsletter “It’s very frustrating,” Carlin said on his flip phone. “I feel like everyone got the vaccine, and I didn’t. The chaotic vaccine rollout has been accompanied by a maze of confusing registration pages and clunky healthcare websites. And the technological know-how to navigate the text alerts, push notifications, and email reminders that are second nature to the digital generation has put older people like Carlin at a disadvantage, who need the vaccine the most. As a result, older people who lack technical skills miss out on potentially life-saving shots. The digital divide between generations has always been marked, but the sudden reduction in face-to-face interactions by the pandemic has made this divide even more apparent. Advocates for older Americans, 22 million of whom do not have wired broadband at home, say it is ludicrous that a program primarily aimed at immunizing vulnerable seniors is so dependent on internet know-how, Twitter ads and online event pages. “We are facing a crisis where connectivity is an alternative to life or death for people,” said Tom Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services, a nonprofit that trains older people in the use of technology. “It couldn’t be much more difficult than being told, ‘If you go out, you could probably die.’” People in nursing homes, among the first to get vaccinated, had staff to help them. . But when vaccines became available to a larger group of older people in late December and early January, many of those living alone had to navigate on their own. Federal agencies like the Administration for Community Living, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as nonprofits say they are doing what they can to guide seniors, but they are exhausted. (Seniors can call the Administration for Community Living’s senior care locator number for help at 1-800-677-1116.) “I don’t know where to go,” Cheyrl said. Lathrop, a 74-year-old resident of Richmond, Virginia. , which has seen younger and more tech-savvy people nearby finding ways to get vaccinated. “I get frustrated with the computer, then I give up.” Some older people rely on younger parents to browse websites and stay awake around the clock in hopes of securing a spot. Lathrop’s daughter Sheri Blume has secured a date with her mother after weeks of searching. Terez Mays-Jones of Alpharetta, Ga., Had a similar experience looking for photos in Cincinnati, where her 73-year-old mother, Jacqueline Sims lives. “It became a side job,” said Mays-Jones, 53. “I was doing all of this research all day and night.” Sims knows her way on Facebook and Instagram, but still occasionally relies on her daughter for help online, and said older adults often feel “intimidated” by the technology. “At our age, we’re not used to making so many mistakes, or we don’t want to admit our mistakes,” said Sims, who finally got a shot thanks to a advice from a cousin. Many older people feel comfortable texting, tweeting, and surfing the Internet. But for those who don’t, taking the time to learn a new skill is often overwhelming, Kamber said. Older Adults Technology Services has taught 48,000 people how to get started online since the start of the pandemic, he said, and operates a technical hotline. When vaccine registrations began, staff on the phone answered thousands of questions about how to make appointments. The regional agencies on aging, which are part of a national network on aging funded by the federal government and supervised by the Administration for Community Living, are also helping. Locals have called seniors and helped them sign up for vaccine appointments over the phone or in person, said Sandy Markwood, general manager of regional agencies, which include more than 600 regional non-profit centers. profit driven by state governments. In Akron, Ohio, Lee Freund, 78, said every hospital, pharmacy and grocery store she called looking for a vaccine had directed her to a series of confusing web pages. Freund managed to accidentally sign up for the grocery delivery, but didn’t have a chance to argue for a shot. She ended up in tears. “When you’re alone it’s frustrating, it’s upsetting and it’s very emotional,” said Freund, whose husband died last year. She said she didn’t call her children for help because she didn’t want to be a burden. “It almost made me think, ‘I don’t think it’s worth it.’” Freund eventually found help with the local Aging Agency, where a woman got him an appointment. you. As of Thursday, about 24 million Americans aged 65 and over, or about 41%, had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to population and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Senator Tina Smith, D-Minn., Who reintroduced a bill last year that would allocate money to help older Americans online, said the government had failed to get out of the way. a avoidable crisis by not funding high-level agencies sooner. Aging network organizations “have been overwhelmed by the needs and demands they have and are themselves struggling to tackle the pandemic,” Smith said in an interview. “We are under-resourced and we are seeing the effects.” The Coronavirus Relief Bill passed by the House includes $ 470 million for support services for older Americans, including vaccine awareness. The Administration for Community Living is working with the CDC on a public awareness campaign for the elderly, said Edwin Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the group for aging. But this initiative is still in the planning stage. In the meantime, groups of volunteers have appeared to help. In Miami, Katherine Quirk and her fiancé, Russ Schwartz, created a Facebook group in January to spread information about vaccine availability in their area. The group has grown to 27,000 members seeking help and offering advice, and the effort has helped thousands get vaccinated. “It’s amazing, overwhelming,” said Quirk, 44, a nurse. “We have been called vaccination angels.” For those who are still waiting their shot, however, hope seems far away. In Novato, Carlin spends his time watching the news on TV in case there is any mention of where to take a photo. A granddaughter tried to find one for her, but was unsuccessful. “I’m used to going out and going and doing everything,” she said. If she were vaccinated, “I could go on living, but now I feel like I’m on hold.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company



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