Arizona Aging Advocates: Home Country Rural Seniors Are Left Behind Introducing Vaccines

The coverage of aging is partly aided by AARP Arizona

Government Council of Northern Arizona

Some of the older adults served by the Northern Arizona Governing Council.

Many older adults who live in rural Arizona are having difficulty making an appointment for the coronavirus vaccine. Access to technology is a big part of it, as is transportation. Many of these seniors are homebound too, and there are concerns that they will be left behind when the vaccine is introduced.

Roger Carignan is finally getting his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. His son, who lives with him, booked the appointment last week.

“And he tried, every hour he went to the online thing to plan it,” said Carignan. “And they had problems.”

Carignan, 72, lives in Coconino County, which is better off than other counties like Navajo, according to Mary Beals-Luedtka, director of the Regional Aging Agency on Northern Arizona Governing Council. Your organization supports rural seniors.

“The big problem for older people across the board is the fact that they have to go online to sign up,” said Beals-Luedtka.

And not every senior in his home country has a computer, let alone Internet access.

“I don’t know who came up with it,” said a frustrated Beals-Luedtka.

However, Carignan is lucky. He’s got both – plus someone who can navigate a clunky website.

For Carignan, the vaccine is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. Like many older adults, he has been isolating for months to avoid contracting the virus.

“My doctor told me I probably wouldn’t survive,” Carignan said.

In addition to his age, he has other comorbidities, including diabetes. However, isolation has its price.

“I watch a lot of television,” said Carignan with a slight laugh. “There’s not much else to do … and it’s just, you know, it’s lonely the way it is. You can’t see good friends.”

→ Questions and Answers: What You Need to Know About Getting Coronavirus Vaccine In Arizona

And rural seniors who were isolated before the pandemic are even more so now, says Beals-Luedtka.

But rural seniors have long been a political afterthought.

“In 2008, we were cut by $ 6.8 million nationwide in government funding for aging,” said Beals-Luedtka.

The money was never restored, she said.

Government Council of Northern Arizona

“You know, in addition to the government cuts we’ve received, we’re comparing federal funding to aging services, and that continues to decline. In 1980 we got $ 9.24 per adult over 65, while in 2010, it was down to $ 3.85 per adult over 65. ”

And it continues to decline as the number of people aged 65 and over in need of services increases. Now if you advocate a global pandemic and aging, proponents have a huge mess that doesn’t get the same amount of attention as online learning, for example.

The stakes are just as high. Older adults have high rates of depression and anxiety. Beals-Luedtka says her case workers had to support seniors who have been considering suicide.

Many have no families that live nearby or not at all. And there is the virus itself. Older adults are at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

So while more dollars would help, Beals-Luedtka isn’t waiting around. Your agency recently partnered with Northern Arizona University nursing students.

“We hope that the nursing students can help us assist the seniors in registering for the appointments and help them get these appointments because they are having difficulty doing this on their own,” she said.

Which leads Beals-Luedtka to another massive hurdle: transport.

“It’ll be more expensive than a normal ride,” she said. “We’re trying to work with our transport companies so they can pick them up, take them to the vaccination site, wait for them, and bring them home.”

And that’s not in your budget.

“So we’re looking for ways to find emergency money for this transport to our home.”

It is unclear how many senior citizens are out there in the home. Beals-Luedka says there are approximately 14,000 who receive some type of service from one of the state’s seven regional aging agencies. This number excludes those receiving services through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s version of Medicaid.

Their fear is that there are many more that will not be reported and possibly forgotten.

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