Coronavirus and older people
Coronavirus: information for older people on general health and wellbeing
Government guidance about what you can and can’t do changes to reflect restrictions currently in place – you can stay up-to-date via the UK government website. Although restrictions to our daily lives are currently easing, the pandemic is not over yet, and it’s important to keep on acting like we have the virus in order to protect each other, even if you’ve had the vaccine. Remember to wash your hands, wear a face covering, make space when with other people, and let in fresh air.
It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about the easing of restrictions and returning to doing the activities we did before. You can help manage the transition by going at your own pace and taking it one step at a time – for example you might feel more comfortable meeting a friend outside.
It is important to continue to look after your general health and wellbeing during this time. This includes:
Keeping physically active
Keeping physically active is important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as for boosting our immunity. For older people especially it 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.
Hopefully you may be getting back to some of your regular activities, although some activities remain online. Alongside this, it is important to try and remain physically active in your daily life - 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 movement 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:
- Ways to keep moving
- NHS low impact exercises at home
- Sport England - How to stay active while you are at home
- Chartered Society of Physiotherapy resources
- Super Six home exercises to improve strength and balance
As we start to return to our usual routines, you should make sure that you continue to eat 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
Having reduced physical contact with friends and family during the COVID pandemic has been really hard, and you still may not be able to see people in person as much as you would like to. There are loads of other 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 – as well as going out again and returning to your usual routine now that restrictions are lifting - all have the potential to impact on mental health and wellbeing. Adapting to a new 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:
Healthy home environments
Having a home environment that supports your health is really important. 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.
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.