AARP Eye Center
Sheron Gardner was determined to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for herself and her partner. But the 75-year-old didn't have a working computer, so she spent more than a week trying to sign up using the official New York State telephone line.
"It was horrendous,” says Gardner, of Rochester, New York. “When I did get an appointment, it was two months in the future.” Many older adults seeking vaccines don't have computers, she says, adding, “It's just not fair."
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Gardner and her partner finally got their vaccine doses by calling Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc., a large nonprofit that provides information and services for older adults and caregivers. Lifespan has received a flood of calls — 75 to 100 new calls a day — from clients seeking appointments.
The clients who call “don't have computers, or they didn't have the skills to troll the sites all the time,” says Lifespan spokesperson Mary Rose McBride.
Most states have now approved vaccinations for adults age 65 and older, prompting a scramble for appointments. But that typically has to be done online, and many older adults are not connected. According to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of adults age 65 and older do not use the internet.
In Colorado, older adults face the same challenges.
"We're seeing that big time,” says Eileen Doherty, executive director of the Colorado Gerontological Society, a Denver-based nonprofit that offers assistance and advocacy. “And it's all technology-driven."
So those older adults without computer access are struggling to make vaccine appointments by telephone, instructed to call one phone number, then another, Doherty says.
One of her clients, Ralph Gean, a well-known musician who lives in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, doesn't own a computer or a car.
Out of the blue, Gean, 78, got a phone call from a hospital in Boulder, inviting him to come get his shot there. He was uncertain about the safety of the vaccine but decided he would go ahead and get it.