Several communities in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, including many Massachusetts-based initiatives, pursued innovative outreach strategies, and deployed its volunteer corps, to assist in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Although older adults were among the demographic groups prioritized for vaccine eligibility, many struggled with the steps involved in actually securing the vaccine. The work being done by local leaders and residents in age-friendly network communities include efforts to share information, do targeted outreach, provide transportation, and even administer vaccines.
In Massachusetts, which is a state member of the AARP age-friendly network, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing created what it calls a COVID-19 Card (pictured), which is a visual tool that can be printed and displayed or carried. Information on the card provides information about preventive measures including hand washing and social distancing, shows pictures depicting symptoms and preferred methods of communication (e.g. lip reading, writing, gestures, interpreter), as well as resources for finding vaccinations. The card is is available in eight languages, in large print and as a screen-reader-accessible version. The website also provides a card that can be adapted for use by health care practitioners outside of Massachusetts.
MassHealth (the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program) changed its rules in order to offer and fund transportation to vaccination sites. The state also made $2.5 million available for funding transportation services to vaccines and health appointments as well as other essential ride service trips during the pandemic.
Some network-enrolled age-friendly initiatives used vaccinated volunteers to drive older residents to vaccine clinics. In Maynard, Massachusetts, the police department helped residents over the age of 75 get to their clinic appointments.
For more info and efforts from across the country, see the AARP blog post here.