Nova Scotia

Seniors' advocate concerned as many bookings for flu shots move online

Sydney's Bernie LaRusic is concerned technology is leaving many seniors behind.

'The biggest concern is that for seniors, [the information] doesn't get out to them'

Bernie LaRusic, 86, is a senior advocate based in Sydney. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

Bernie LaRusic says it's becoming more difficult to access things like vaccinations as pharmacies move away from walk-in clinics and toward booking flu shots online. 

The retired teacher said he and many other people don't have great technology skills and he worries that Nova Scotia's aging population may be getting lost in the shuffle.

"Anything online, unless it's a clothesline, I'm frigged," said LaRusic, 86.

"I'm not good with a computer. They were just coming in when I retired. Once I have to go from one place to another, and then another place, I never make it."

LaRusic is the only surviving member of the Cape Breton Senior Council. All three other executive members died over the last two years, including one who died after contracting COVID-19.

The Sydney senior is now trying to revive the advocacy group, and says one of the things he'd like brought forward is the limited amount of services for people who are unable to use technology.

"That's a major concern of a lot of seniors," he said. "The biggest concern is that for seniors, [the information] doesn't get out to them."

Flu shots

Many pharmacies in Nova Scotia have moved to online bookings for flu shots rather than walk-in services, according to Diane Harpell, board chair of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia and owner of the Medicine Shoppe in Dartmouth.

Harpell said the decision to move bookings online is up to each individual pharmacy.

"If you can think about everything that pharmacies are doing right now, the ability to take walk-in appointments for anything really is more and more of a challenge," said Harpell.

"[With online bookings] we can make sure that we do have the space available and the resources…. The other part of it is making sure that we're getting rid of all the paper administrations."

Harpell said some people are frustrated by the move online, but generally, most have been understanding. 

She said pharmacies are usually helpful when it comes to making appointments for people without an email address

But in her experience, most people don't need the help.

"It's a very, very small amount of people," said Harpell. "You get a few here and there in every age group."

Senior council

LaRusic said Nova Scotia pharmacies could be doing more to get their message out to the senior community. "You must be able to communicate with the senior community a hell of a lot better than you are right now," he said.

He said many seniors still rely on traditional forms of media, such as television news and radio. 

According to Statistics Canada, internet use doubled from 32 per cent to 68 per cent among Canadians aged 65 and older from 2007 to 2016.

A statement from the province Friday said the Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care does not have statistics on computer literacy and internet-use rates for older Nova Scotians.

"As for accessing healthcare services such as vaccinations, there are several options for people with different needs. Appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine can be accessed online, by phone or by dropping into a clinic," the statement read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

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