Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for older people

People aged 70 years and over, people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions, people with compromised immune systems, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50, are at greater risk of more serious illness if they are infected with coronavirus.

Why this virus is so dangerous for older people and people with chronic medical conditions

The risk of serious illness from coronavirus increases if you are older or if you have a chronic medical condition.

The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, particularly those with other serious health conditions or a weakened immune system.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for coronavirus, or immunity in the community, so you need to make sure you protect yourself.

Protecting yourself

Good hygiene and taking care when interacting with other people are the best defences for you and your family against coronavirus. This includes:

  • covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • disposing of used tissues immediately into a rubbish bin and washing your hands
  • washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet, and when you have been out to shops or other places
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers (60% alcohol), where available
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched
  • stay 1.5 metres away — 2 arms’ length — from other people. This is an example of social distancing
  • stay at home and avoid contact with others
  • avoid non-essential travel
  • consider having the chemist deliver your medicines
  • consider having your groceries and essential items delivered to your home

Read our fact sheet about the support available to you if you are isolated and finding it difficult to access food and basic household items.

Symptoms

Symptoms include (but are not limited to) fever, a dry cough, tiredness, a sore throat and difficulty breathing.

If you develop mild symptoms of COVID-19:

  • isolate yourself from others at home and use a separate bathroom, if available
  • use a surgical mask when around other people. If you don’t have a mask, practise good sneeze/cough hygiene
  • practise good hand hygiene
  • call a doctor and tell them about your symptoms and whether you have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing:

  • call 000, ask for an ambulance and notify the officers if you have been in contact with anyone with COVID-19

Assistance with food and meals

Many Commonwealth funded providers, such as Meals on Wheels, can assist you with access to regular food supplies and prepared meals.

If you are in urgent need of support, the My Aged Care contact centre 1800 200 422 can refer you directly to these services in your local area. Services can be set up quickly for up to 6 weeks without the need for an assessment. You can also arrange this directly with your provider if you prefer.

Urgent referrals to grocery suppliers

We are working with grocery suppliers on priority access to their online and telephone shopping for older and vulnerable people including if you are registered with My Aged Care.

You can call the My Aged Care contact centre on 1800 200 422 to register for My Aged Care.

    More information

    If you have questions, you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline.

    National Coronavirus Helpline

    Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    View contact

    If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450

    Contact your local state and territory health departments for information about your local health system arrangements. 

    If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.

    Last updated: 
    2 April 2020

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