As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the world and the pandemic moves towards its peak on the infection curve in many countries, several governments have implemented social distancing measures in a bid to flatten this peak and save lives.
These social distancing measures include remote working, the closure of schools and bars, and lockdowns in some cities, in addition to special guidance for senior citizens.
Many governments and health officials have urged older adults to self-isolate for several weeks up to a few months, while authorities attempt to get a grip on the pandemic, either by slowing and containing its spread (as China did) or by swiftly developing a vaccine.
Seniors Should Be Extra Careful
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially devastating in the senior population. While the virus is very serious no matter what your age if you’re over 50 years old the chances of death increase.
When certain pre-existing medical conditions are adding to the equation surviving COVID-19 becomes even more difficult.
Governments have encouraged the entire population to minimize “avoidable contact.” Still, these strict self-isolation recommendations were explicitly issued for seniors (over 70s in particular) as they have proven to be more vulnerable to the virus, with older adults facing much higher mortality rates than the average adult if they contract the COVID-19 virus.
This vulnerability stems from the fact senior citizens tend to have weaker immune systems, so they have a lower chance of successfully fighting off the virus.
Furthermore, some older adults suffer from other ailments, such as respiratory diseases or hypertension, which also put them at a higher risk of death if they contract the COVID-19 virus.
It is, therefore, easy to see why many governments have issued such extreme guidance to seniors, as they look to protect the elderly from the virus, which has already resulted in over 215,000 worldwide cases and caused around 9,000 deaths.
What Else Can Seniors Do To Protect Themselves?
Self-isolation and avoiding contact with others as much as possible is the best way for seniors to reduce their chances of contracting the virus. Still, in some instances, such as in assisted living facilities, some level of human contact is unavoidable.
Seniors living in care homes and senior living facilities should take their personal hygiene very seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance on how to protect yourself from the COVID-19 pandemic, principally encouraging people to frequently and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water, and avoid touching their faces. You can watch a short video produced by the CDC for seniors here: “COVID-19 – What Older Adults Need To Know”
An alcohol-based sanitizer (60-95 percent alcohol) can also be used, though washing your hands is the best way to kill and wash away viruses, according to health experts.
Senior living facilities should ramp up cleaning schedules in response to the pandemic, with a focus on disinfecting communal areas. Given the vulnerability of these communities, they should also adopt a no visitors policy, as many governments have advised and mandated, and screen essential staff to ensure they don’t pass the virus on to residents.
If you are self-isolating at home but need someone to visit you for an emergency, it is highly advisable to ask them to wear a face mask before entering to prevent them from spreading their germs onto surfaces, which you may later touch.
Seniors can go out but should avoid human contact possible as much as possible and stay well away from crowded events. Furthermore, they should attempt to stock up on essential goods so they don’t have to make frequent trips to stores, which may also be visited by people infected with the coronavirus.
Although self-isolation and social distancing are key to containing the virus, there are concerns that these strategies also have unintentional negative effects on seniors including isolation and loneliness.
A Quick Summary
- The COVID-19 virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread to dozens of other countries, resulting in well over 200,000 cases and some 9,000 worldwide deaths.
- Seniors are especially vulnerable to the virus, as their immune systems are weaker and they may have underlying health conditions which put them at a much higher risk of death if they contract the virus than the average healthy adult.
- With this increased risk in mind, many governments have urged seniors to self-isolate for weeks to months while they contain the virus’ spread.
- Additionally, older adults are encouraged to avoid human contact as much as possible when they go out and should wash their hands for around 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or use sanitizer gel to kill germs on their hands.