Between increased vulnerability to COVID-19 and the isolation that accompanies taking extreme precautions, seniors continue to be some of the people most adversely affected by the pandemic. As of this February, adults 65 and older represented nearly 80% of all COVID-19 deaths.
Throughout the two-and-a-half-year coronavirus battle, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) has increased its services to protect older adults in our community. From providing more than 365,000 meals in 2021 through Meals on Wheels to offering safe, free rides to medical and vaccine appointments, UWCA hasn’t stopped anticipating –and answering — the needs of this population.
Most recently, United Way Area Agency on Aging (UWAAA) had the opportunity to offer a new way to help protect seniors from COVID-19. Through the Vaccine Hesitancy Campaign for the Elderly and Disabled, eligible seniors 60 years and older could receive a $100 VISA gift card if they chose to get a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the two free clinics hosted by UWAAA in Jefferson County in January.
At Edgewater Senior Center and St. John Senior Center in Dolomite, medical staff administered 132 vaccines and 119 eligible seniors received gift cards. UWAAA also partnered with Jefferson County Family Resource Center to give away 59 more gift cards to seniors who received the vaccinations.
“The Jefferson County Family Resource Center connects families and individuals to resources,” said Executive Director Carrie Buntain. “Partnering with the United Way AAA to provide incentives at our Healthy Food Box Distribution and COVID Vaccine/Booster Drive-Thru Clinics has allowed us to reach an aging population often hindered by transportation barriers.”
UWAAA purchased a total of 388 gift cards to motivate hesitant seniors to get vaccinated; and, through community outreach and advertising, promoted the events and locations. But this campaign was actually about even more than protection from the cornonavirus. By teaming up with the Family Resource Center, seniors and their families learned more about the other great resources that will help them live happier, healthier lives.
“The draw of the incentives has provided us with the opportunity to educate the community about resources ranging from substance abuse disorder, literacy, organ donation, food insecurity, and educational programs in our area,” said Carrie. “This incredible partnership has allowed us to educate grandparents and relative caregivers raising our next generation about financial resources available to them through the Alabama Cares program.”
UWAAA will continue its work with the Family Resource Center in the future.
“These incentives have strengthened our ability to promote health and wellness among a very vulnerable population and to engage a demographic prone to isolation and loneliness,” said Carrie. “It is our pleasure to work with agencies such as the United Way AAA, which enable us to engage our aging neighbors in a positive and productive way.”