Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota County, Florida, will harness their trusted community partners and their long-standing belief in people helping people to increase COVID-19 and influenza vaccine uptake among older adults.
Two Senior Friendship Centers will host vaccine clinics, conduct education and outreach, and provide referral services through funding from NCOA’s COVID-19 and Influenza Vaccine Uptake Initiative.
The Senior Friendship Centers will focus their vaccine efforts on reaching approximately 3,000 low-income, minority, and homebound older adults, building on their previous work assisting older adults access benefits for food and utilities.
When he founded Senior Friendship Centers in 1973, Brother William Geenen famously said that “isolation and loneliness are the malnutrition of aging.”
As a nonprofit organization serving older adults in four counties in Southwest Florida, Senior Friendship Centers are a critical safety net for close to 10,000 older adults, providing programs and services such as caregiving resources, adult day services, dining centers, home-delivered meals, exercise classes, lifelong learning, economic assistance, socialization, friendly visitors, and more. The support of generous community partners, agencies and donors enables Senior Friendship Centers to help more older adults in need.
How are Senior Friendship Centers helping improve vaccination among older adults?
A belief in “People Helping People,” has been the foundation of Senior Friendship Centers for five decades, with volunteers serving in nearly every facet of the organization. In the spirit of “People Helping People” and leveraging their community partners, Senior Friendship Centers developed key vaccine uptake strategies, applied for an NCOA COVID-19 and influenza vaccine uptake grant, and were the among the first senior centers to receive grant funding through this new funding opportunity.
The Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota and Venice will use the following strategies to increase vaccine uptake:
- Host two vaccine clinics for up to 250 adults age 50+ to receive either a COVID-19 and/or flu vaccine(s)
- Conduct outreach and education to 2,500 adults age 50+ years in Sarasota County
- Provide referral services for vaccinations to 200 adults age 50+ (referral services will include assistance with scheduling vaccine appointments and transportation to vaccine sites)
Who will Senior Friendship Centers reach with vaccine support, and how?
The individuals targeted for these efforts will be low-income, minority, and homebound adults age 50 and over in Sarasota County. Previous efforts by the Senior Friendship Centers to reach this population were successful in improving access to food and local benefits to pay for utilities.
The two centrally located senior centers will be the hub for the Senior Friendship Centers vaccine clinics. They will partner with a local pharmacy to host vaccine clinics and publicize the clinics to older adults in the community through outreach events and by working with community partners. For current clients, staff will supply them with educational materials and identify and address barriers to receiving vaccines.
Common barriers include transportation, lack of insurance, inability to pay for copayments, and being homebound. Education efforts will focus on combatting misinformation.
Senior Friendship Centers have positive working relationships with several community partners, including Sarasota Health and Human Services, Sarasota Community Foundation, United Way of the Suncoast and South Sarasota, and the local area agency on aging. These partners and others will be leveraged to increase awareness and market the vaccine clinics, with the goal of reaching the most vulnerable in the community.
Senior Friendship Centers have hosted flu vaccine clinics in the past through their previously operated medical clinics. Now that they no longer operate these clinics, they are working to support and assist seniors get vaccinated through other means. Their communications team will be responsible for leading the marketing efforts of this program through print, local radio, and TV advertisements, and in-person events. Other team members will be responsible for outreach and education by reaching out to currently enrolled clients and attending outreach events. This multi-pronged approach will allow for outreach and education to both current clients and those who do not receive any services from Senior Friendship Centers.
Senior Friendship Centers will begin their outreach and education initiative in January and will continue to provide vaccine referral services through the end of the year. Demographic data about those receiving vaccines will be collected during their two vaccine clinics as well as for their vaccine referral, education, and outreach activities.
How are Senior Friendship Centers and the Vaccine Update Initiative focusing on diversity?
An important aspect of NCOA’s COVID-19 and Influenza Vaccine Uptake Initiative is assuring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) of those receiving vaccines. Senior Friendship Centers have worked hard to promote DEI within their organization and create safe and welcoming spaces for diverse older adults in their community.
For example, centers offer LGBTQ+ support groups on a weekly basis. In addition, their staff speak multiple languages and are representative of the older adults they serve. The Board has been recruiting new members who are more reflective of the racial and ethnic diversity of the older adults using the centers’ services and programs. DEI will be an integral component of the Senior Friendship Centers outreach and education efforts.
What is the NCOA Vaccine Uptake Initiative?
With $50 million in federal funding from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, the largest grant in its history, NCOA is providing funding and technical assistance to senior centers and hundreds of diverse community-based organizations, enabling them to conduct tailored outreach, host vaccine clinics, and offer services many older adults need to get vaccinated, such as transportation and assistance in scheduling appointments. Learn more about NCOA’s Vaccine Uptake Initiative. NCOA will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis through March 1, 2023, or until funds are exhausted.
The goal of this NCOA funding opportunity is to increase the number of older adults and people with disabilities receiving COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations.
The need is great in Florida. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 74% of older adults in Florida have not received the COVID-19 bivalent booster.1
NCOA is honored to support the Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota County in their important role of increasing the uptake of vaccines among diverse and vulnerable older adults. We commend Senior Friendship Centers for helping to protect seniors from severe illness, hospitalization, and death from influenza and COVID-19.
NCOA strongly encourages senior centers and other community-based organizations to apply for these grants and be part of a nationwide campaign to ensure older adults and people with disabilities get the latest COVID and flu vaccines. If you have questions after reviewing the funding opportunity announcement, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If your center has engaged in a recent study or assessment, we’d love to hear about it. And if you haven't already, we'd encourage you to join the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC). Free to all senior centers (and their personnel), NISC supports senior centers with best practices and innovations in programming, as well as networking and training opportunities. Ask for help, leverage NISC resources, or share your successes like the Arlington Heights Senior Center (AHSC). Find out how you can become a NISC Affiliate today.
Photo courtesy Senior Friendship Centers
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States. Percent of the Population 65 Years of Age or Older with an Updated (Bivalent) Booster Dose Reported to CDC by Jurisdictions and Select Federal Entities. Found on the internet at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-people-booster-percent-pop65