Coronavirus and older people

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Coronavirus: information for older people on general health and wellbeing

To reduce the risk of infection from Coronavirus, the government has introduced measures that mean that we must engage in social distancing and, for those with symptoms of Coronavirus, to self-isolate. If you're over 60 or have existing health conditions, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus and should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others.

During this time it is important to look after your general health and wellbeing. This includes:  

Keeping physically active

Keeping physically active is important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as for our boosting immunity. For older people it especially helps with balance, co-ordination, maintaining muscle and bone strength and the flexibility of joints  - which means you are less likely to have a fall.

While you may be unable to participate in your regular activities, it is important to try and remain physically active, carrying out exercises to maintain muscle strength, balance and flexibility. These can be done in the house or, if possible, in the garden. You should avoid extended periods of sitting, reclining or lying while awake – for example get up every hour and make a drink or do some housework. All movment counts!

There are a number of resources detailed in the TV schedule as well as online.  Some local services, including our Wellbeing service, provide online video classes to enable you to carry on with, or join a new activity. Check your usual provider for details. 

There are lots of online resources including:

Healthy eating

Whether you are being supplied with food by other people or buying it yourself, you should make sure that you are eating enough of the right food and drink. Some older people have an increased risk of not getting enough nutrients or calories. The British Dietetic Association's website has lots of information about Coronavirus and eating and drinking well, including:

  • Having a balanced diet made up of: high protein foods; dairy; starchy foods such bread cereals, potatoes, pasta or rice; fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juice); and 2 portions of oily fish a week.
  • Having at least 6-8 glasses/mugs of fluid every day.
  • If you do get ill, it’s important to eat and drink regularly, even if you don’t have much of an appetite. 6-8 mugs or large glasses a day for adults is advised but this may need to be higher if you have a high temperature.
  • Tips to increase energy intake and protein: eat ‘little and often’, try not to have drinks just before meals to avoid feeling too full to eat and avoid low fat/diet versions of foods and drink. Choose meals that are enjoyable, easy to prepare and eat, and high in energy and protein.
  • Vitamin D protects bones and muscles; you should take a 10 microgram supplement each day (available from pharmacies or supermarkets).

Reducing loneliness and social isolation

Despite having to reduce physical contact with others, there are still loads of ways of staying in touch - via phone including Skype or WhatsApp, email or social media. It would be a good idea to check in with other older people you know as they may well be feeling the increased lack of contact. As well as connecting you with people you know, the internet can also be used to connect with others with the same interests. Citizens online have produced a useful list of resources to help people stay in touch, including how to get set up on Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook. If technology isn’t a strong point, why not ask someone to help you.

Mental health and wellbeing

Being anxious about Coronavirus, reducing your contact with other people, being required to stay at home and changing your routine all have the potential to impact on mental health and wellbeing. Developing a routine, keeping physically active, connecting with others, and learning or developing new skills can all help. There is lots of information online to help tackle anxiety and maintain your mental health:

Mind – Coronavirus and your wellbeing

NHS – Coronavirus staying at home tips  

Every Mind Matters – Coronavirus anxiety tips

Healthy home environments

As you are spending more time at home, it is important that your home environment supports your health. Make sure it is warm enough if the temperature drops and keep windows open to let in fresh air and get natural sunlight if and when possible. You can also check your home for hazards that might increase the risk of accidents such as falls and take action if necessary. The Age UK Home Safety Checker is a useful guide (PDF - new window).

Age UK have a useful set of resources on their website covering many of the areas above.

This is a challenging time, but there are still loads of things that you can do to support your general health and wellbeing.

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