Older Kansans without smartphone, laptop technologies struggle for COVID information

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Many counties and health systems are using smartphones and laptops those technologies to deliver updated information for COVID-19 vaccine, causing Kansans that don’t own them to miss out.

An AARP study from 2017 shows 18% of people over the age of 50 are very confident their data is kept private on their smartphones and laptops, causing frustrations for Kansans getting COVID-19 information without them.

A woman who asked not to be identified is in the phase two group for vaccines. She does not own a smartphone or computer, so she tried to call the Shawnee County Health Department multiple times about getting a vaccine but heard nothing back.

“I called that number, that was shown on the screen and they never called back,” she said. “Well it’s aggravating and disappointing. You watch TV and you see all these people getting them and you’d like to have it because you’d like to be safe.”

The study from AARP of more than 1,500 people 50-and-older found among those who own a computer — only 34% use it to get health and fitness information and 32% use it to manage or receive medical care. 30% said they will not get a smartphone and 38% will not get a laptop.

AARP State Director for Kansas Maren Turner says it’s essential people reach out for help.

“If you know somebody, who is right now over the age of 65 since we’re in phase two, you know somebody that might need to get that information – reach out to them and make sure that they know everything that they need to know.”

Turner said a cellphone isn’t essential, but in addition to convenience, it also may ease isolation.

“With this pandemic, people haven’t gotten out and about like they used to and so I’m really concerned about people like that. So, again, if you know of somebody and even if you haven’t seen them in a while, just reach out and find out if they could use some help and I’m sure they would appreciate it,” she said.

After weeks of unanswered questions, the woman we spoke with said she reached out to her son, to go online for her and fill out the COVID-19 vaccine interest survey.

“He says, ‘Mom, you’re on the list.’ Okay what does that mean? ‘I filled out that application today – name, address, all that and that have it and they will call you when it’s time for you to go get a shot.’”

Now, the woman waits for the call to set up an appointment and get her vaccine.

If you live in Shawnee County and don’t have a smartphone or internet access — you can call 785-251-4949 for help completing their vaccine interest survey. You can find links and numbers for other counties here.

Turner said they are working at AARP to create call centers for adults seeking more information and creating apps on phones to help simplify things and better help older Kansans.

She said to ask for help around churches, clubs and libraries along with anywhere you trust. Family members and loved ones are the best but to continue asking for help if needed.

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