Coronavirus and older people

Older people make a significant contribution to every sphere of life, and are at the heart of our communities as well as working, volunteering, and caring for family members.  The Covid pandemic and associated restrictions have hit hard as we haven’t been able to participate in our usual activities in the same way, and it’s been more difficult to stay in touch with friends and family.  Now people are starting to get out and about again, we want to share some of the activities which older people are involved in – including those which are restarting after a break, returning to face-to-face after a period online, and new opportunities which might tempt people back out into their communities.  

Older people in West Sussex have said that they like to keep happy, healthy and independent by taking part in clubs, meeting people and doing exercise, as well as having a good network of support around them. Although some people may be feeling a bit less confident and less active than usual, there’s lots of support out there if you need it. Now is a great time to get back to doing what you love!

From bowls to colouring groups, there is something for everyone. Why not take a look to see what is happening near you, search for details of a local club or society using the directory on the West Sussex County Councils website. West Sussex Libraries have an extensive timetable of activities, from board games and peaceful colouring groups to knit and natter and reading groups. Libraries also have plenty of volunteering opportunities, check out the West Sussex County Council website for more information.

Also, why not have a look at the new services for older people, provided by a partnership between Age UK West Sussex, Brighton & Hove, Age UK East Grinstead, Carers Support, Community Transport Sussex, Guild Care, Royal Voluntary Service and West Sussex Mind.

If you need a bit of support getting out and about, you can find information on community transport and free travel in your area on the West Sussex County Council website.

Whatever you do in life, it’s usually much the same daily things all the time … What makes the difference is where you do it. In my part of West Sussex I'm 10 minutes from the sea, it’s peaceful, exciting and wonderful. The village I live in is full of friendly people, when you go out everyone says hello, even the children!

West Sussex resident
West Sussex Ageing Well survey

Coronavirus: information for older people on general health and wellbeing

Although the Government has removed the remaining Coronavirus restrictions (see the UK Government website), COVID-19 is going to be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future. We need to learn to live with it and continue to take steps to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. This includes:

  • Getting vaccinated
  • Letting fresh air in if meeting indoors, or meet outside
  • Consider wearing a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces
  • Getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms, and stay at home if positive
  • Remembering to wash your hands

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about the lifting 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 will 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:

Healthy eating

As we 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 eating and drinking well, especially relating to Coronavirus. This includes:

  • 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 have lifted -  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:

Mind – Coronavirus and your wellbeing

NHS – Coronavirus staying at home tips  

Every Mind Matters – Coronavirus anxiety tips

NHS - tips on how to cope with anxiety about getting "back to normal"

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