Advice for Senior Citizens on Staying Safe during COVID-19

Maria Aranda, associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work with a joint appointment at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, provides expert tips on how older adults can stay safe and less stressed during this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency. The best part about her tips is that they really apply to everyone, young and old.

Turn to authoritative sources

With the news about the coronavirus COVID-19 changing rapidly, it is important to make sure you are getting the best information from authoritative sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, if you are at higher risk, the CDC recommends you stay at home as much as possible if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. Follow your state’s guidance, which can be found online, such as the State of California’s COVID-19 website.

Avoid ageism

The new coronavirus is not just a disease of the elderly. Young people are at risk too, and their activities can increase the risk for others. Health emergencies remind us that society is built upon inter-generational cooperation, not pitting young against old. Avoid quips and jokes that focus on age and instead, focus on how we all can help one another.

Keep up with the news but don’t get glued to it

It is important to make sure you know the latest news every day in this quickly changing situation, but bear in mind that too much information can be exhausting and even terrifying. Once you have heard the latest, turn off the news and do something else. Know when enough is enough.

Beware of scams

A sad fact of life is that scammers always try to profit from other people’s fears and anxieties. Beware of robocalls touting miracle cures and COVID-19 home testing kits. Learn more about what to watch out for on the Federal Communications Commission website.

Cultivate a lifeline

If you live alone, make sure you have someone you can call if you need help. Ask that person to check in with you regularly as well. Bonus: connecting with others on the phone, through text or video chat can help us feel less alone.

Caring for those with diminished cognitive capacity

Give thought to what we may need to do to guarantee safety for those with disabilities, dementia, or diminished cognitive capacity during the COVID-19 emergency. Individuals in this population need to keep a regular schedule as much as possible and ensure that medications are taken on time. Brainstorm new or additional recreational activities so they do not become bored or agitated if COVID-19 “shelter in place” measures keep them in the home more than normal. Be sure to factor in rest periods as well.

Additional Resources for COVID-19

National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging
Administration for Community Living
Los Angeles County, Department of Health
Department of Aging

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