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Guide to staying healthy in self-isolation for over 50s, 60s, 70s and older

 healthy in isolation With many of us facing the prospect of a dauntingly long period of self-isolation, it's easy to feel worried about how to maintain your physical and mental health without leaving the house. Although it's obviously a very worrying time, there are lots of steps that you can take to ensure that you look after yourself and stay healthy. We've compiled a collection of all the best advice from gransnetters on how to keep well while staying in. We've also added links to our most useful pages, so you have all our advice in one place.

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What should I eat to keep healthy while self-isolating? 

With so much uncertainty, some shoppers have focused entirely on stocking up on tinned goods. Please DON'T do this. The governement has made it clear that panic buying is unnessacery and leaves less food for people who really need it. Besides, one of the best things you can do for your health and immune system at the moment is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, which are a brilliant natural defense against illness. If you're in isolation alone, we've got plenty of ideas for healthy and delicious meals for one you can cook. We've also got some ideas for hearty, wholesome meals if you need some comfort food. 

Healthy foods and recipies to try in self-isolation: 

  • Cirtus fruits, ginger, garlic, brocolli and spinich are fresh foods with immune-system boosting qualities. 
  • Fermemented fruits and vegetables are also known to have beneficial bacterial which can help the gut's response to illness. Yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and khimchi are all healthy fermented foods.
  • Wondering where to start with all your tins? Oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel are high in Omega-3. If you're not getting a lot of natural light at the moment, oily fish also contains vitamin D. 
  • We've got a guide to easy pasta recipies too, as well as sausage casserole and slow-cooker meals
  • Balance is also very important! If you're thinking about using your time in isolation to bake some sweet treats, then check out our favourite chocolate cake recipes. 

 coronavirus food prep

Can I go out to get food? 

Current government advice is that is if you are not showing symptoms, and no one in your household needs to self-isolate, you can go shopping for basic essentials, but only when you really need to. You should avoid shops, and if possible you should not travel there by public transport. Supermarkets have been opening early for the elderly, vulnerable and NHS workers, and are trying to reserve online delivery slots for these groups. Supermarket guidelines are changing frequently, although you can see a useful summary of current restrictions here. It's worth noting that lots of local grocery shops are reporting to be well stocked with essentials, and are often less busy than major stores. 

If you do need to to visit a supermarket, there are ways to protect yourself and your community while you're there. It is essential to respect the two-metre rule and to make sure you're following guidance about hand-washing. Plan to visit shops outside of peak times, which are typically weekend afternoons and between 4pm and 6pm during the week. If you have any disinfecting wipes, it's a good idea to bring them with you to the shop so you can wipe down and surfaces you have to touch, like a trolley handles. Paying with card rather than cash is a good way to minimalise contact too. 

Can I go for a walk or exercise while self-isolating? 

If you think you, or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms, you should not leave your house at all. If you do not have symptoms, you are allowed to exercise once a day. If you run into people while you are out walking, make sure you stay at least two meters away from them too. Going for walks very early in the morning is a good tactic to ensure you're less likely to run into people.

If you're in an at-risk group, and have a garden, now is a fantastic time to start on all the outdoor jobs you might have been neglecting. Besides the fact gardening is a good source of exercise - it can burn up to 250 calories an hour - it's a chance to get some fresh air and enjoy nature. 


Other at-home exercise: 

  • If you don't have a garden, there are plenty of indoor exercises which are perfect for people in self isolation. We have compiled a useful guide here.
  • Online yoga is very popular with some of our users. Lots of Gransnetters recommend Yoga with Adriene, a fitness instructor who has lots of useful videos for older people, including Chair Yoga and Workout for Older Adults
  • We've also got a guide to strength training
  • And another guide to Tai Chi!


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gardening mental health


How can I look after my mental health while self-isolating? 

Experts have recommended maintaining a sense of routine is very helpful for staying mentally well in self-isolation. Gransnetters have shared their isolation routines and ideas for fun activities that help them feel productive. A good spring-clean has been suggested, as well as getting dressed everyday.

"Our routine of having coffee at 10ish every morning won't change - I've just found out that milk that has been frozen still froths for my cappuccino!"

"When all this is over the charity shops will be inundated, as we realise how few shoes, clothes, scarves and handbags we actually need."

It's also important to remember that everyone adjusts to different circumstances differently, and it's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and to not be particularly productive at all. Don't pressure yourself to 'make the most of the pandemic'. These are difficult times - don't make them harder by being tough on yourself. Besides, by staying home and doing nothing, you're being incredibly productive - you're helping lessen the risk of more people becoming infected with and possibly dying of Covid-19. 

If you feel like the risks to your mental health are more serious, there are lots of resources to help you. Below is a list of helplines which could be useful if you feel in need of support.

If you would rather text someone than speak on the phone, you can contact Shout, which is a text helpline service which provides support in a crisis. If you want to contact them text 'SHOUT' to 85258.

Other ways of connecting while in self-isolation: 

  • Mutual-Aid WhatsApp groups are being set up across the country. These groups are for people who want to get involved in their community's response to Covid-19, and have resources for people both offering and seeking support. 
  • The hardest thing for many Gransnetters about self-isolation is not being able to see their grandchildren. Thankfully, there are lots of options for video-calling, like WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype. 
  • Whether we like it or not, staying in is the new going out. If you're missing out on big social gatherings, there are lots of great options for mass video-chatting, like Zoom, where up to 100 people can join the conversation. 

What should I do if I feel anxious or scared in self-isolation? 

It's totally normal and understandable to feel anxious and overwhelmed at the moment. There are a few positive steps you can take to fight anxiety.

  • The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy recommend doing something practical, for example writing down your feelings in diary. 
  • Staying connected to your support network is crucial. Whether this is with family or friends over the phone or social media, or the Gransnet forums, talking about how you feel is essential. 
  • If reading the news makes you feel very stressed, it could be helpful to restricting looking at it to twice in the day. 
  • We have lots of pages which have advice on how to cope with very understandable feelings that you may currently be experiencing, like stress, anxiety and panic attacks, and loneliness.
  • One of the most difficult things about the crisis is that many of us feel like we have no sense of control, and that, unless we are a key worker, we are powerless to help. But this isn't true. There are many fantastic charities which are doing so much, many of whom are short of volunteers and donations at the moment. If there is a cause you feel especially passionate about, now is a time when your donation would be really appreciated. 

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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