THE elderly are among those hit hardest by coronavirus, which is sweeping through the UK and the rest of the world.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those over 70 must self-isolate at home from this weekend for up to four months to stop them getting the virus.
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It comes as the UK death toll reached 105, with cases hitting 2,626.
The Prime Minister said: “In a few days’ time – by this coming weekend – it will be necessary to go further and to ensure that those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks.
“This avoiding all social contact is especially important for the over 70, pregnant women and those with health conditions.
“It is now clear that the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than others.
“People over 70 might feel there is something excessive about these measures.
“I believe they are overwhelmingly worth it to slow the spread of the disease reduce the peak save life minimise suffering and give our NHS the chance to cope.”
Medics say the elderly are more at risk of the bug as their immune systems are weaker – meaning their bodies are less able to fight Covid-19.
In fact, evidence from China, where the deadly virus originated, shows one in seven of those over 80 known to have contracted coronavirus have died.
What does self-isolation mean for pensioners?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says self-isolation is currently “the most effective way” of preventing the deadly bug from spreading.
Pensioners will have to remain in their homes, except for getting medical care, and not go to work, school or public areas.
Experts also say people who are self-isolating need to separate themselves from other people in their home and stay in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened.
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They will need to ask for help if they require any shopping or medications – and call ahead before visiting a doctor.
Despite this, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the elderly will still be able to go out and walk their dogs during months of self-isolation.
Mr Shapps told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We will ask people to do that as and when the moment is right.
“As I said to my mum, it is the case that people will be able to go out and walk your dog.
“It’s about being sensible without going and mixing in crowds.”
How can you help the elderly cope with isolation?
One of the best things to do is to encourage elderly people to shop online so they keep stocks of food and supplies.
But if they do not have access to the internet or are not handy with a computer, Age UK recommend that healthy, more active people help with running errands like picking up bits of shopping.
The Government is in talks with major retailers to ensure the elderly and vulnerable can still get access to supplies, such as through a telephone hotline where they can place orders.
However, older people are increasingly getting online – data from the Office for National Statistics show that 83 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 had used the internet in 2019, up from 52 per cent in 2011.
It may be worth ensuring that the older people in your life are set up with online shopping accounts now, are able to access social media to stay in touch with other or have been introduced to streaming services such as Netflix.
On top of this, part of the mental battle of isolation is remaining as active as possible – even if this means standing up ten times in one hour and walking between rooms in the house.
If the elderly person you are helping has a garden, encourage them to walk around it – and make sure they are not immobile for long periods of time, watching television for long periods or remaining bed bound.Anyone who visits an older person should wash their hands before and after they visit.
Ensure carers in homes or those doing regular home visits do not attend if they are sick or displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
A number of pharmacies around the UK are making plans to deliver medication to elderly people in the event of self isolation.
Why are the elderly more susceptible to Covid-19?
It’s older adults – aged 60 and upwards – who are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus.
Medics say it’s because our immune systems weaken with age, meaning an older person’s body is less able to fight Covid-19.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of Patient Access, told The Sun: “We know that as you get older, your immune system becomes less efficient – that’s why older people are at higher risk of serious complications of coronavirus infection.
“If your immune system isn’t strong, it’s more likely that the virus can multiply deep inside your lung, causing inflammation and scarring.
“Your immune system will try and fight it off, and will often destroy healthy lung tissue in the process.
“This makes you more prone to get ‘secondary’ infections like pneumococcal pneumonia.”