Older Adults & COVID-19

Last updated: March 27

Based on what we know so far about COVID-19, older adults and people with other health concerns have been more likely to have serious complications after contracting the virus than the general population. Your physician can review your medical record to give you a greater understanding of your personal risk.

Here are answers to some common questions related to older adults and COVID-19. Please note that these answers are subject to change as we receive more information about COVID-19. If you have additional questions not answered here, call your physician or the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 hotline at 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843).

Frequently Asked Questions

People who are older than 65 do not appear to be more likely to contract COVID-19. However, they are more likely to have serious complications leading to emergency care, such as hospitalization, intubation (use of a ventilator) and admission to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Experts believe that the more underlying health conditions a person has, the higher their chance of having serious complications from COVID-19. Adults tend to develop more underlying health concerns as they age. The immune system of older adults also tends to weaken with age, which makes it harder to fight off viruses.

Keep at least a 2-week supply of your medications and contact your physician if you need refills. To refill your prescription, you can limit exposure to the virus by using a mail-order service or drive-thru pharmacy, or have a caregiver pick up your medication.

Physicians recommend that older adults adhere to the recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prioritizing extreme physical distancing and hand hygiene. You should also exercise, eat well, reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.

It is normal to feel stress or anxiety during times of uncertainty. Although we recommend that older adults physically distance themselves from others, it is still important to connect with friends and family. Find creative ways to stay in touch while you are physically separated, such as calling friends you haven’t seen in a while, trying out video chats, sending emails or writing letters.

When you connect with others, talk to the people you trust about your feelings. If you are feeling anxious or stressed for several days in a row, consider calling your physician to see if an appointment with a therapist can help you manage your concerns.

Physicians also recommend that people of all ages take breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news. Instead, try exercise, deep breathing, meditation or a walk. It is also important to eat well and get plenty of sleep to keep your immune system strong.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, call your physician for guidance.

If you have been exposed to someone who received a COVID-19 diagnosis, you should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of the virus. If you begin to experience symptoms, call your physician.