When we speak of vaccines, we often think of babies and toddlers. But, did you know that vaccination is as essential for adults (especially people over 50) as much as for kids? Here, in today’s post, we give you the lowdown of the recommended vaccination shots and screening tests needed to keep you healthy as you step into your sunset years.
Why Regular Health Tests and Vaccinations are Essential for Older Adults?
As we grow older, our immune system starts losing its effectiveness. This means older adults in their 50s and above, are more likely to catch infections compared to younger adults in their 30s and 40s. Also, once seniors catch an infection, they are likely to take a longer time to recover.
This is why old age vaccination is highly recommended.
Necessary Vaccines and Health Tests for Senior Adults in India
Unlike the National Immunization Schedule for Infants and Children, there is no authorised list of compulsory vaccines for senior citizens in India. Doctors and other healthcare providers have come up with a suggested list of vaccines for the elderly population that offers protection against most common communicable diseases like influenza, pneumonia, zoster, and tetanus.
Among the many infections and illnesses affecting the elderly several can be prevented with administration of the right vaccines and by conducting regular diagnostic tests.
List of Recommended Vaccines for Senior Citizens
1. Influenza Vaccine
What it protects against - Influenza, commonly known as the flu. It’s a contagious viral infection that can lead to respiratory illness and sometimes becomes even life-threatening.
Why is it needed for seniors? As noted above, older adults suffer from a weakened immune system and are more likely to develop complications, because of the infection. Additionally, older adults are likely to have a chronic condition like heart diseases or diabetes, and tackling the flu becomes harder for the body on top of managing the existing health issue.
What is the Frequency of the Vaccine? Once a year, preferably in October before the flu season starts in India, where it peaks in February and March. The body takes around two weeks to build immunity after getting the shot.
2. Shingles Vaccine
What it protects against – Shingles is a painful skin infection caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. It causes painful blisters and rashes that are itchy. Just like chickenpox, it’s a contagious disease, and even after the virus subsides, it can cause long-term pain.
Why is it needed for seniors? Older adults are likely to lose the effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine they got as a child, as they reach their 50s. The side-effects of Shingles are severe, especially among older adults. It causes exhaustion, fever, loss of appetite which can lead to malnutrition and physical deterioration in seniors.
What is the Frequency of the Vaccine? It’s a two-dose vaccination, and you can get the two shots spaced a few months apart.
3. Pneumococcal Vaccine
What it protects against – The pneumococcal disease commonly referred to as pneumonia. This is a severe infection that spreads throughout the bloodstream and can also affect key organs like the lungs. Pneumococcal disease causes several infections like pneumonia (lung infection), meningitis (brain and spinal cord infection), and bacteremia (bloodstream infection). The symptoms of pneumococcal disease range from loss of limbs, brain damage, deafness, and even death.
Why is it needed for seniors? Globally, three people die every minute due to pneumococcal diseases, and those above 60 are at higher risks for this infection.
What is the Frequency of the Vaccine? It’s a two-dose vaccine that is given a year apart.
Other Recommended Vaccines
Apart from these three highly vaccines recommended for senior citizens, there are several other vaccines for protection against Hepatitis B vaccine, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough. Your doctor may recommend these vaccines depending on the medical history and risk factors of the individual.
Now, that we’ve covered the vaccination schedule, let’s answer the other pressing question, what are the Health Tests Necessary for Senior Citizens?
Preventive Health Tests for Ages 50 and Up
Here, we’ve listed the important senior health tests for different categories. Some of these categories like substance abuse may not apply to you. However, others are mandatory for all seniors.
- Substance Abuse, Cognitive and Mental Health
- Checking for tobacco or alcohol misuse
- Checking for signs of cognitive impairment
- Checking for symptoms and signs of depression and loneliness
- Safety and Functional Abilities
- Check whether the older adult had a fall recently
- Check for functional impairment
- Assess home safety and check for signs of elder mistreatment
- Physical Health – Screening for
- High or low blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes and abnormal blood glucose
- High cholesterol
- Hepatitis C
- HIV and other STI
- Cancer Screening for
- Colon cancer
- Breast and cervical cancer (for women)
- Prostate cancer (for men)
- Lung cancer
- Cardiac and coronary artery diseases screening using
- ECG and carotid artery testing
Preventive Care – The Easiest and Most Effective Way to Stay Healthy as You Grow Older
Sadly, in India, for several reasons preventive care for the elderly is often ignored. Many of the infections and illnesses of seniors could be easily avoided by administration of the right vaccines and diagnostic health screenings. Until the government introduces a National Immunization Schedule for the elderly, it’s the duty and responsibility of family members to take proactive steps to ensure that the seniors and older adults in their family stay protected.
Get Screened and Vaccinated, and Avoid Preventable Diseases!