Advice for older people

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

“This is a stressful and worrying time for all of us, but like all challenges it has also shown what is possible when we as employers and workers, friends and neighbours, come together to solve problems and support one another.” Dr Anna Dixon of the Centre for Ageing Better

The UK Government has asked everyone to follow guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are 70 or older, you might be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus – regardless of any other medical conditions – so you should be particularly careful about following social distancing and self-isolation rules.

You can find advice about coronavirus on the NHS, Patient Info and Age UK websites and learn more about Test and Trace. If you develop any symptoms and need a coronavirus test or medical care, call NHS 111.

If you have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or severe asthma, the Government has published additional guidance for you.

Lockdown restrictions have changed in England – find out what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website and get the latest guidance on shielding.

Useful tips

Here at Good Thinking, we recognise that this isn't an easy situation and that you might have some specific concerns. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or having trouble sleeping, we can recommend NHS-approved apps to help you. If you’re feeling lonely, there are lots of organisations to support you, such as Age UK, Independent Age and The Silver Line.

Below, you’ll find Good Thinking’s tips to help you manage your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak, as well as links to further support.

Make a list of the essential supplies you need, such as food and medicine. If possible, do your shopping online (either for delivery or click and collect). You might have to wait a little longer than normal for a delivery slot but you should be able to register for a priority slot. You can still get prescriptions and medicines from your GP and your pharmacy should be able to deliver them for you.

If you don’t have access to online shopping, do you know anyone who could pick up your groceries or medicine for you? If your family or friends don’t live nearby, you might be able to find a neighbour or community group that can help (see point 3 below).

If you have no other option and have to go to the shops yourself, try to do it as little as possible and follow social distancing and hygiene guidance. Most supermarkets offer protected shopping hours for older people and vulnerable people.

Visit the Age UK website to find out what the supermarkets are doing to help and the Patient Info website for advice on getting medication.

If you can’t see your friends, children, grandchildren and other relatives face-to-face, there are lots of other ways to stay in touch. Call them for a chat – you might even find it useful to create a list of people you’ll call each week. If you have a computer or smartphone, why not set up an email group to keep in touch? You could also use Facebook or download a video chat app, such as Skype or WhatsApp.

Around a quarter of UK adults say they are feeling lonely during lockdown – a call, a text or an email can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to tell the people you trust how you’re feeling and discuss any particular concerns you have.

Check out Age UK’s instructions for making video calls and this article in The Guardian about support networks set up to deal with lockdown. The Campaign to End Loneliness also provides advice about what to do if you’re lonely during self-isolation.

Let your family, friends and neighbours know how they can help you over the coming weeks. If you are in sheltered accommodation or a residential care home, talk to your warden or carers about any concerns you might have. If you don’t have anyone nearby who can assist you, there is lots of support available.

Feeling lonely? Contact Age UK on 0800 169 6565, Independent Age on 0800 319 6789 or The Silver Line on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Need help with shopping? Contact your local Age UK, your Local Authority, your local faith group or one of the community support groups (e.g. COVID-19 Mutual Aid) that has been set up. NHS Volunteer Responders might also be able to help you.

Concerned about general care for you, your spouse or an elderly relative? If you normally receive social care support in your own home, this should continue but you might have different people visiting you. If you are caring for someone else, visit the Carers UK website for advice. If someone in your family has dementia and you need support, call the Dementia UK helpline on 0800 888 678.

Worried about your finances? The Citizens Advice website and our article about how to handle job and financial uncertainty contain lots of useful advice.

Need medical assistance? Contact NHS 111 (or 999 in an emergency). The NHS is available for all your health needs – whether coronavirus or something else – and it’s important that you put your health first. Don’t feel guilty about getting help.

Looking for bereavement support? Read Good Thinking's advice about how to cope with bereavement and grief, which contains links to various support organisations.

Keep up with any hobbies you can do at home, such as baking, gardening and exercising. If you do a regular activity outside of the house and you have access to the internet, see whether there is a digital alternative – many choirs, pub quiz teams, book clubs and other groups have moved their weekly meet-ups online. Try not to read or watch the news too often as it might become overwhelming. Check out these stories about Age UK Camden’s online music recitals and the Caribbean Social Forum.

You might find it useful to set yourself a daily challenge or find something new you can do. Take a look at BBC Music Memories, Explore (nature live streams), Apple Books, Open Culture and Stay At Home Fest for some ideas.

Do some light exercise if you’re well enough – walk around your house, flat or garden, try some sitting exercises, strength and balance exercises or do an online workout. See how Captain Tom Moore and the Skipping Sikh have been keeping fit and raising money for the NHS.

Finally, make sure you eat healthily, stay hydrated and get enough sleep. You might find our advice about maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and our tips about sleep useful, plus the NHS Better Health website contains lots of useful information.

If you’d like to give your mental health a check-up, take the Good Thinking self-assessment. You might also find our podcasts with NHS sleep consultant Michael Farquhar (healthy sleep patterns) and consultant psychologist Janet Wingrove (mindfulness) interesting. Our partners at Wellmind Health are offering their Meditainment course of 20 guided meditations for free up to December 2020.