Author Archives: Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Tips for reporting on what experts say could be a tough flu season for the elderly

As cases of the Delta variant start to wane, infectious disease specialists have a new concern this fall — flu and pneumonia, especially in vulnerable populations like older adults.

Experts from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and the CDC expressed concern about a potentially serious flu season at a video press briefing on October 7.  Flu cases during 2020-21 were extremely low— just 2,124 confirmed cases between Sept. 27, 2020, and May 15, 2021— thanks in large part to people working from home, wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.

But as more communities ease restrictions, the flu could surge this year, impacting many more people. For seniors, whose immune systems are weaker than younger adults, that could mean an increase in hospitalizations, cases of pneumonia, or even deaths.

“The medical and public health community are preparing for a potentially vigorous respiratory virus session in the United States,” said William Schaffner, M.D., NFID medical director, who moderated the briefing. “The best way to prepare is to get your flu vaccine.”

Vaccination is especially important among at-risk populations, including adults 65 and older, and those with certain chronic conditions according to Schaffner.

Currently, the U.S. is on track for similar flu vaccination rates as 2020, about 52% overall, according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., who participated in the briefing.  That rate may not be good enough this year to keep case rates low.

A recent NFID survey revealed that even among those who are at high risk for complications, nearly 1 in 4 (23%) were not planning to get vaccinated this season. While most people over age 65 (71%) said they will get a flu shot, 30% of seniors would remain unprotected, leading to potentially serious consequences.

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ACL delivers first report on RAISE Act to Congress

Photo: Asian Development Bank via Flickr

Family caregiving can be rewarding but also challenging. When caregivers do not have the support they need, their health, well-being and quality of life often suffer. So in 2018, Congress passed the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support & Engage) Family Caregiving Act. The law directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national family caregiving strategy and establish a Family Caregiving Advisory Council to provide recommendations on effective models of both family caregiving and support and improve coordination across federal government programs. Continue reading

Study reveals why neighborhood location impacts aging

Photo by MabelAmber via Pixabay

When it comes to health care, neighborhood location matters — not only now, but also as we age, according to a recent study published in JAMA. While it’s not surprising that living in various neighborhoods is linked to how well older adults function during their lifespan, more accurate estimates of these disparities may help change the outcomes.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and University of Maryland used a new social determinant of health, neighborhood disadvantage, to assess the ability of participants to perform essential activities of daily living required to maintain independence. This study focused on four key activities — bathing, dressing, walking and transferring. Life expectancy with and without disability are often used by policymakers to forecast the well-being of older people. Continue reading

New poll looks at fall risk during the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo by Neil Moralee via Flickr.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious long-term health effects — ranging from heart problems to ongoing brain fog. Now, we can add decreased mobility and increased fall risk among older adults, according to a new poll.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging uncovered some worrying indicators: 25% of older adults experienced a fall between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and January 2021, when the poll was conducted. Forty percent of those who experienced a fall had more than one fall during this period. The CDC cites falls as the leading cause of injury and death among those 65 and older. We know that reduced physical conditioning and fear of falling may increase future fall risk and reduce independence. Continue reading

New tip sheet looks at a key cause of heart problems

Image: Yale Rosen via Flickr

Image: Yale Rosen via Flickr

While deaths from COVID-19 have naturally been a major focus over the past 18 months, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a significant and growing problem. Even during the pandemic, heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2020. More than 868,000 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year. That’s one-third of all deaths.

Nearly a quarter of men (23%) and 14% of women between ages 60 and 79 have some type of heart disease and millions more are at risk due to hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, family history, or other risk factors.

The pandemic may have even worsened rates of CVD, as many people avoided or delayed routine health care and management of chronic conditions. For those over 80, the rate of CVD jumps to 36% for men and 21% for women. As the population of older adults in the U.S. increases to a projected 22% in 2050, heart disease will continue to impact mortality and morbidity rates. So it makes sense to become familiar with one of the leading types of heart disease, atherosclerosis. Continue reading