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Coronavirus advice for the over 50s, 60s, 70s and older

coronavirus advice for over 50s

Updated 20/01/21

With the high numbers of coronavirus cases across the country, and recent changes and clarifications from the government, we wanted to give you the clearest information on how older people and grandparents are affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the UK government's response to it. If you would like to talk to others who may be in a similar situation, join our online community here. 

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Current top coronavirus-related conversations include:

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Note: We are updating this page regularly as guidance changes, but please also keep on top of NHS advice, which can be found here

Lockdown in England - what are the rules?

coronavirus advice for over 50s

England is now in a third national lockdown, meaning everyone must stay at home by law unless you have a necessary reason to leave your home. Unlike the last lockdown in November (which was for four weeks), there is no definite end date yet for when restrictions will lift. Boris Johnson said in his speech that he hoped restrictions could started be eased around mid-February, but Michael Gove has warned that lockdown is likely to last until March.

When am I allowed to leave my home? 

There are a limited number of reasons to leave your house, including the following:

  • Shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • Go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area
  • Meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • Seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • Attend education or childcare - for those eligible. Schools and colleges will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers
  • For the full list of reasons, please visit the government website here

Can I still form a support bubble? 

Yes, support bubbles are still permitted, but only for those who are eligible.

This still includes those who live alone, so if you don't live with anyone else, you are able to form a bubble with another household. This will come as a relief to many grandparents or older people who live alone, and are facing isolation. If you form a support bubble, however, it's advised that you do so locally.

If the household you are wanting to join with has already formed another bubble, you cannot bubble with them. For more information on forming a bubble, please check the government website here.

Can I see my family socially if I'm not in a support bubble with them? 

No, you shouldn't leave your home to meet others outside of your household or support bubble socially. You may see one other person to exercise with, but this should be limited to once a day, and you should social distance from them. You should also stick to your local area when you are exercising.

What about childcare? Can I look after my grandchildren? 

Yes, in certain circumstances you can provide 'informal childcare'. The government allows 'childcare bubbles' so people can provide or receive childcare from one other household. This only applies if you (or the household you are providing childcare for) live with someone under the age of 14. You must not meet this bubble socially - it must only be for the purpose of childcare.

We know from our research that over half of Gransnet users regularly looked after their grandchildren pre-Covid, but there are still safety concerns, particularly as grandparents are more likely to be at an age that puts them at a higher risk with the virus. For the latest on childcare and grandparenting during the pandemic, visit our guide here. And if you can't meet, this doesn't mean you can't have quality time with your grandkids though - there are plenty of ideas on the page for fun ways to keep in touch from a distance.

Can I visit a care home?

Visits to care homes are allowed but strict safety measures must be in place to minimise contact, for example, visits must be made with substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Indoor visits with close contact are not permitted currently. 

I'm worried about feeling lonely in lockdown - what can I do?

The emotional toll of being stuck inside and cut off from seeing family and friends in person can be overwhelming, but gransnetters are always on hand to offer support, advice, or just friendly chat about almost anything to take your mind off the day's headlines. 

We also have lots of advice on how to cope with loneliness while you're staying at home here, and tips on staying positive during the pandemic here.

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Do I have to shield if I'm clinically vulnerable? 

Yes, shielding has now been reintroduced nationally in England, as it was in the first lockdown in March. When announcing the news, Boris Johnson said that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will soon receive a letter with further details.

If this applies to you, you must stay home at all times unless for medical appointments or exercise. Please check the government website for more information on shielding here.

Complications and deaths are more common in the elderly, even those without pre-existing conditions.' So for now some people over 70 are still choosing to exercise at home and have their shopping delivered to them. If you're struggling to do this, do read our advice on how to register as a vulnerable shopper and how to get those coveted delivery slots. 


When will over 50s get the vaccine?

The UK has approved mass use of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, and vaccinations are happening across the UK. 

Here's the priority list of who will get the vaccine first:

  1. Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. All those aged 80 and over. Frontline health and social care workers
  3. All those aged 75 and over
  4. All those aged 70 and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. All those aged 65 and over
  6. All individuals aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. All those aged 60 and over
  8. All those aged 55 and over
  9. All those aged 50 and over

When it's your turn to be vaccinated, you'll be invited to book an appointment.

Wales and coronavirus - what are the rules?

  • Wales is now in alert level 4 - the country's highest alert level. The country is currently in a national lockdown.
  • Everyone is required to stay at home, not create an extended household and only mix with their household or support bubble. This applies to indoors and outdoors. 
  • All hairdressers, beauty salons and non-essential retailers, along with gyms and leisure centres are closed.
  • Schools will also be closed.
  • Travelling will only by allowed for essential purposes, such as for work and for caring responsibilities.
  • These rules are being reviewed on 29 January, but they are unlikely to be eased.
  • Guidelines for Wales

Scotland's national lockdown - what can I do? 

Scotland is in a national lockdown with the whole country under a 'stay at home' order by law. Here are some of the rules now in place: 

  • Everyone should stay at home, and work from home where possible.
  • Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the lockdown will last until at least mid-February.
  • Schools will be closed.
  • People are only allowed to meet one person from one other household outdoors.


Northern Ireland - what does the new lockdown mean? 

Northern Ireland is currently in a lockdown that started on 26th December, with extra measures agreed on 5th January. The lockdown is in place until 6th February, but it's "highly unlikely" restrictions will be eased. Here are some of the restrictions in place:

  • A 'stay at home' order for Northern Ireland became legally enforceable from 8th January. People can only leave home with a 'reasonable' excuse, such as for medical or food needs, exercise and work that cannot be done from home.
  • Non-essential shops are closed.
  • Outdoor exercise is only allowed with members of your own household. 
  • Hospitality venues will be restricted to takeaway services.
  • Guidelines for Northern Ireland


Do I have to wear a mask?

Face coverings (something that safely covers the nose and mouth) are now mandatory in certain situations. In England you need to wear them in the following place (please note, with restrictions some of the following might be closed, but you will have to wear a mask when they reopen): 

  • in NHS settings (GPs/hospitals etc)
  • when visiting care homes
  • on public transport and in transport hubs (airports, railway stations etc)
  • in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres
  • in post offices, banks or similar
  • in beauty salons/tattoo parlours or other providing personal care or beauty service
  • at the vet
  • when visiting attractions and entertainment venues 
  • libraries
  • places of worship
  • funeral service providers
  • public areas in hotels 
  • in pubs and restaurants when you are not sat at your table

For the full list and more detail go to the government website.

It is accepted that their main value is to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection from coughing, sneezing etc. 

Here's what Gransnet users say about it:


Symptoms for older people

The most important symptoms to watch out for are:

  • fever
  • a new, persistent cough 
  • a loss or change to your sense of taste or smell

If you have cold or flu symptoms that appear to be getting worse rather than better over time, this could be another sign of the virus. Fatigue and body-aches can also be symptoms of normal seasonal flu as well as coronavirus. If you’re experiencing itchy eyes, a stuffy nose and sneezing, don’t worry - these are generally symptoms of normal allergies.

If you suspect you have coronavirus, use the online NHS 111 service, and you and your household need to self-isolate as soon as you develop symptoms.

If you experience any of these severe symptoms of coronavirus, contact emergency services immediately:

  • difficulty breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face


What should I have in the house in case I get coronavirus?

Bearing the most common symptoms in mind, it’s helpful to think calmly about what you would want around the house if you had a cold - lots of tissues, chicken soup, hydrating drinks. 

If you need daily medication, contact your pharmacy by phone and explain your situation - many of them are offering delivery service at the moment. 

It could be helpful to make a list of all of the aid organisations in your community that you could contact if you need to access information, health care services, support, and resources.

Most of all, look after yourself. Advice on the forums is:

“Plenty of phone calls, Skype, Gransnet, uplifting radio music rather than the news, ordering in favourite foods and treats, reading good books, afternoon naps etc.” 


I don't have symptoms but I'm worried - what can I do to stay safe?

NHS UK’s advice is to:

  • wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • if you have to leave the house for any reason, always wash your hands when you get home (or into work if you are a key worker)
  • use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • avoid close contact with people

Whilst it's important to stay vigilant, if your worry is becoming unbearable, it might be a good idea to seek help. We have a list of useful resources if you feel your mental health is suffering as a result of the pandemic. 


Getting help if you're on your own 

If you live alone, it is essential to keep in touch with the outside world as much as you can at the moment. The phone is the easiest way to keep connected for many people, and making sure you have a list of phone numbers easily accessible is a good idea. Creating Whatsapp groups with neighbours or local friends can be useful if you need help getting supplies. Mutual aid groups are springing up around the UK, where ordinary people are getting together to help people with food shopping, picking-up perscriptions or dog walking. If you're worried about living alone, we've got some suggestions for how to avoid loneliness in isolation. 


Gift ideas for people who are self-isolated 

If you want to provide some comfort to people who are still self-isolating, gransnetters have lots of advice

It's a difficult time for everyone, and a gift in the post could be a massive source of comfort for someone who's feeling lonely during the epidemic. Here are some of our favourite suggestions.

"My FaceTime address. I know from experience that loneliness is the worse thing!"

"Some seeds or voucher for seed catalogue."

"Jigsaw puzzles, flowers, books, and a daily phone call (at least)."

"A good supply of gin and tonic."


Disclaimer: The information on our health pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult the NHS coronavirus website if you are concerned you or someone you know has the disease.


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