7 ways to prevent the flu and other health complications for seniors

Older adults are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu than younger people because their immune systems become weaker with age. Seasonal influenza—the flu—infects millions of Canadians every year, resulting in over 12,000 hospitalizations and about 3,500 deaths annually. More than 91 per cent of flu-related deaths, over 80 per cent of hospitalizations and about 75 per cent of ICU admissions occur in Canadians 65 and older, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Flu-related complications can also result in reduced independence and mobility for seniors, according to Archives of Internal Medicine.

How can you best protect against the flu?

1. Get a flu shot. The safest and most effective way to protect yourself and your loved one against the influenza virus is to be vaccinated. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends annual influenza vaccination for people 65 and over, and for people under 65 with chronic conditions such as stroke, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Flu shots reduce the risk of death among seniors by about 85 per cent, hospitalization by 70 per cent and pneumonia by 60 per cent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They recommend getting vaccinated in November or early December so you are protected through the entire flu season.

In addition to getting the flu shot, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from infection during flu season in the following ways:

2. Avoid contact with anyone who has the flu or flu-like symptoms.

3. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Mid section of senior man washing hands

4. Keep your hands away from your face.

5. Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your shirt sleeve rather than your hands. Promptly dispose of used tissues in the waste basket or garbage.

6. Keep common surface areas clean and disinfected, such as doorknobs, light switches, telephones and keyboards.

7. Eat healthy foods and be physically active to keep your immune system strong.