Older people and COVID-19

The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (coronavirus) increases with age. For example, people in their 60s or 70s are more at risk of severe illness than people in their 40s or 50s.

Severe illness means that you may need to go to hospital, an intensive care unit (ICU), or be put on a ventilator to help you breathe. There is also a risk of death.

People over 70 are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, while people over 60 are also advised to take extra care to protect themselves.

You are also at higher risk from COVID-19 if you have certain medical conditions.

Because of this, it’s important to:


If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and phone your GP.

Read more about people at higher risk from COVID-19

Protecting yourself from COVID-19

Everyone should:

  • wash their hands properly and often
  • cover coughs and sneezes
  • follow social distancing guidelines
  • wear a face covering

Read more about protecting yourself and others from COVID-19

If you are over 70

People over 70 are at very high risk from COVID-19 and are advised to stay at home as much as possible.

You should avoid meeting other people, if possible. This can be very hard to do. If you live alone or need support, you can form a support bubble with another household.

Read advice about staying at home, support bubbles and meeting other people safely

If you are over 60

Follow the advice for people at high risk from COVID-19

Testing and older people

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or come into close contact with the virus, you may need to be tested.

A GP may request a home test for you if you cannot go to a test centre because of your health. But they will only consider a home test based on your medical need.

Read more about home testing

If you cannot drive to a test centre, a family member or a friend can drive you. If possible, it’s best to ask someone you live with or who is in your support bubble.

Everyone in the car should:

  • wear a face covering at all times and bin or wash it after you get home
  • wash their hands before and after the journey

Read more advice on how to stay safe if sharing a car with someone

Visits from other people

It’s always safer to meet fewer people, less often, for less time, especially if you are an older person. But you may need people to visit you for your care and wellbeing.

If you live on your own you can form a 'support bubble' with one other household. You can visit their home and they can visit you. You can also meet outdoors and in places other than the home.

If people visit you, ask them to clean their hands when they arrive. After they leave, clean surfaces they have been in contact with. Use your usual household cleaning agents and detergents.

Do not wear disposable gloves instead of washing your hands. The virus gets on them in the same way it gets on your hands. Also, your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.

Coping with loneliness and isolation

You may feel particularly lonely and isolated with the current restrictions. That’s understandable. Support is available.

ALONE have a support line for people concerned about COVID-19 or having difficulties. Phone 0818 22 20 24, Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm.

Read advice on coping with loneliness and isolation

Minding your mental health

If you are older, different things can affect your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Read advice on looking after your mental health if you’re an older person


Coming into contact with someone infected with COVID-19 is the main risk when you are out shopping.

Read advice on shopping safely during the coronavirus pandemic

If you are over 70, it is best to ask friends or family to shop for you. This is because it can be hard to keep a 2 metre distance between you and other people in shops.

If you choose to go shopping:

  • wear a face covering - this is the law in shops, shopping centres and some other retail environments such as hairdressers and cinemas
  • go during any dedicated shopping hours for people who are at very high risk from COVID-19 - check these with your local supermarket
  • follow strict social distancing guidelines, keeping a distance of 2 metres between you and other people

Last updated: 31 December 2020 at 12.01am