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Survey: COVID-19 Vaccine and Social Changes Among Older Adults

Older adults in the U.S. embrace the COVID-19 vaccine but still face a long path back to normal

After COVID-19 vaccinations began in the United States in the final weeks of 2020, older adults were among the first populations served. Now that all U.S. adults are eligible for a COVID vaccine, questions about “getting back to normal” still loom large for those fully vaccinated.

Based on recent data, a majority of older adults plan to expand their social interactions or travel plans, but most will continue following COVID-19 health guidelines in public. GoHealth commissioned an online survey, April 13 to 16, 2021, of 1,000 U.S. adults, ages 65 and older. The results indicate that vaccinated older adults are eager to define a “new normal” but express uncertainty about returning to pre-COVID norms.


Vaccination Status – Older Americans 65+

Double Shot

More than half (65%) were fully vaccinated at the time of the survey

Single Shot

Twelve percent were partially vaccinated at the time of the survey

Vaccine Plan

Nine percent have not received the vaccine but plan to get one

While older adults were among the first wave to receive the vaccine, about 1 in 8 do not plan to get one. The vaccine is new, people have lingering questions, and trust is the common thread among the skeptics.


Thirteen Percent Don’t Plan to Get Vaccinated. The Top Three Reasons Are:


“I don’t trust that the vaccine will work” or “I believe vaccines cause more harm than good”


“I’m worried about the side effects”


“I don’t trust the government”


Sixty-eight percent of Fully Vaccinated Older Adults Say They Plan to or Have Made At Least One Lifestyle Change

Most older adults are getting the vaccine, and the data shows they want to visit with friends and family and get back to doing the things they enjoy. When asked if they plan to make changes to their social activities, 68% of fully vaccinated older adults said they plan to or have made at least one lifestyle change. On average, they planned to make about four of the 10 suggested changes.


What, if any, lifestyle changes have you made or intend to make now that you are fully vaccinated?
Visit(s) with fully-vaccinated family and/or friends indoors42%
Shop indoors for groceries39%
Dine indoors at restaurants and/or bars34%
Shop indoors at retailers (non-grocery)30%
Visit doctors and/or specialists that I missed during the pandemic28%
Visit(s) with my family and/or friends indoors, despite their vaccine status26%
Travel within the United States25%
Visit dentists and/or hygienists that I missed during the pandemic24%
Visit a gym and/or attend group fitness classes6%
Travel outside of the United States4%
I haven’t made any changes and don’t intend to27%
I don’t know5%


Cautious Optimism: Older Adults are Stepping Out

On the other hand, many recognize that they still have a responsibility to follow health guidelines in public places. Among those fully or partially vaccinated, 91% say they intend to continue wearing a mask, and the same percentage will continue to follow social distancing guidelines. Seventy-nine percent of those either planning or unsure if they will get the vaccine say they will continue to social distance, but a lower percentage say they will wear a mask.



Fully and partially vaccinated older adults will continue to wear a mask



Older adults that are planning or are unsure if they will be vaccinated say they will continue to wear a mask


While Travel in 2021 is on the Horizon, Many Older Adults Aren’t Sure if their Health Insurance Plan Travels with Them

The population of vaccinated Americans grows each day, with older adults leading the way. Older adults were among the first to have access to the COVID vaccine, and now they’re planning to take advantage and travel. But when the rubber hits the road, they must understand whether their health insurance travels as well.

Among all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries that have plans to travel, many incorrectly believe their plans will cover them wherever they go. Seventy-one percent believe their plan will cover them when they travel. Eight percent think it will not, while 21% don’t know.

Medicare Advantage coverage is generally limited when you travel outside your provider network, although plans must cover emergency and urgent care anywhere in the U.S.

The survey revealed that regardless of health insurance coverage or vaccination status, a fair amount of people are ready to venture away from home.


One-quarter of those fully vaccinated said they are reintroducing travel within the U.S.


4% of the same group also plan to reintroduce travel abroad


Among those partially vaccinated, planning to get vaccinated or unsure of their vaccination plans: 28% plan to travel within the U.S.


8% of the same group also plan to reintroduce travel abroad


Planning for the Holidays

Memorial Day

16% of all older adults have decided they are comfortable enough to make plans for a Memorial Day gathering at the end of May.

Fourth of July

23% already have decided to make plans for Fourth of July, five weeks after Memorial Day.


GoHealth commissioned 1,000 online interviews from April 13 through April 16, 2021, using a third-party survey tool. The data is a nationally representative sample of seniors aged 65+.

The survey polled two groups of respondents that met the following criteria:

  • Ages 65+
  • Reside in the US

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