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Coronavirus Tips for Older Adults, Parents & Kids

Coronavirus Protection for Older Adults

Jewel Mullen, M.D., MPH, explains how older adults can protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Jewel Mullen, M.D., MPH, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, explains how older adults can protect themselves from the coronavirus.

The risk of serious complications and death from the coronavirus infection is higher for people 65 and older than it is for younger people, Mullen says, so it’s important for older people and the people around them — friends, family, caretakers and others — to know how to protect themselves.

The Basics

First, Mullen advises following basic infection-prevention recommendations:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from other people, whether you’re inside or outside.
  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering such as a bandana, cotton scarf or old T-shirt folded into three layers. It should cover your nose, mouth and underneath your chin.

If you need to still go into work, ask your employer what they’re doing to keep you safe, including masking and social-distancing measures. Sometimes even installing safety measures such as plexiglass shields can help cut down on the spread of germs, Mullen says.

Stay Connected

A key aspect of staying well is social interaction. If someone who doesn’t live with you wants to come visit, Mullen provides some advice:

  • Ask the visitor not to come if they’re sick or have any symptoms, like a fever.
  • Remind the visitor to wear their mask and stay 6 feet away from you.
  • Visit outside, rather than indoors, if you can.
  • Rather than a hug or a kiss, bump elbows or do an air high-five.

Otherwise, connect with friends and family by virtual means: video chat, phone calls, text messages.

Be Active

Find ways to stay mentally and physically active, Mullen advises. Activities that keep you mentally and physically engaged can help you find joy and keep your mood up.

  • Some examples Mullen provides are:
  • Having conversations with friends and family;
  • Playing games or working on puzzles;
  • Watching television;
  • Listening to music;
  • Working in a garden;
  • Walking around inside and counting your steps.

Maintain Medical Care

If you have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, continue to take your medication, and let your doctor or pharmacist know if you have difficulty getting your medication.

Remember that it’s still possible to get illnesses other than COVID-19. If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, new numbness or tingling, severe head pain or any other symptom that makes you worry, Mullen urges you to call your doctor.

“It’s important to find these new ways of being normal even though these are not normal times,” Mullen says. “I believe one way we’re going to get through this is by sticking together, protecting ourselves, protecting one another — and that’s what we need to do.”

How Older Adults Can Guard Against COVID-19

Paul Tatum, M.D., provides advice on how older adults can stay safe and connected during the spread of COVID-19.

People ages 65 and older are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Paul Tatum, M.D., answers some common questions older adults may have about how to keep themselves safe.

To protect yourself: Stay home. Wash your hands often. Avoid close contact (six feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Can I go get groceries?

Your goal is to stay at home as much as possible. If you can, avoid going to the store: Rely on family, friends, neighbors or a commercial service to deliver groceries.

Is it OK to exercise?

It’s safe to exercise. In fact, you should keep exercising — but do it at home. Look online for tai chi or yoga videos. Use that big soup can as a light weight.

You can go outside for a walk, but if you do, make sure to stay six feet from others. Wash your hands when you get home.

Do I have to completely isolate myself?

Social distance is good, but social isolation is bad. Call somebody if you’re alone. Connecting via phone or video chat is different from connecting in person, but it still valuable.

If you need a help and are having a hard time finding it, reach out via the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging.