Older Adults and COVID-19

Last revised on July 16, 2021 

Ottawa Public Health states that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 years of age.  In addition to increasing age, people who have serious underlying medical conditions (such as: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, are immunocompromised) or who are severely obese are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please monitor your symptoms carefully (maybe keep a journal). Your condition can change rapidly; do not delay getting medical care if your symptoms progress or change. You can seek care at a COVID-19 care and testing centre or, if urgent care is needed, go to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.

Even during a pandemic, please seek non-COVID-19 medical care when needed. You can visit your doctor/emergency room during the COVID-19 pandemic by following established guidelines and protocols. If you experience a medical problem or a change in your health, talk through your symptoms with your health care provider over the phone first. Your health care provider can do a telephone assessment and decide if you need to be seen in person. If you are having a medical emergency, go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

Every individual needs to consider their personal risk factors when making decisions about going out. Ottawa Public Health recommends that older adults avoid non-essential trips in the community as much as possible and remember to always be Social Wise: 

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • I - Isolate yourself from others when you are sick and get tested immediately if you have COVID-like symptoms.
  • S - Share your enthusiasm with friends and family about being fully vaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated.
  • E - Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer especially before touching your face. 

Wearing a mask helps to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Some people are medically exempt or unable to wear a mask. Let’s all be COVID Kind and be respectful of those who cannot wear a mask. 

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please go for testing at aCOVID-19 Assessment Centre, aCOVID-19 Care and Testing Centre or at a select Community Health Centre. Appointments are needed at all sites. Meanwhile, follow the general instructions on self-isolation. 

If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptom), do not go to an Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care and Testing Clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. 

Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page

Do you have questions about COVID-19, healthy aging or caring for an older adult in Ottawa? Are you looking for ways to support adults 55 years of age and older? If yes, then join our Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page to get in the know!

Maintaining Positive Mental Health

The COVID-19 situation can be very stressful. It is important to take care of our mental health during challenging times like these. 

  • Check in with yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to the Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311 if needed. 
  • Stay connected to others in different ways. For example, by phone or with other technology.
  • For resources, please visit our Mental health and substance use services and resources web page. 

Staying Active

Physical activity is important for our overall physical and mental wellness. While Ottawa Public Health recommends that older adults limit non-essential trips into the community as much as possible, there are still ways to bactive both at home and outside.

You can find some strength and balance exercises you can do at home on our Aging Well in Ottawa web page.

Being Social

Socializing is important for our mental health and overall wellbeing. During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still stay in touch with those you love, and the outside world. It is important to be SocialWise to protect yourself and others. You can:

  • Connect with family and friends via telephone, text, video chat, and social media.
  • Visit a museum or an art gallery online.
  • Learn a new hobby or activity online. Try a new exercise class or learn a new skill. 
  • Send cards or letters to let loved ones know you are thinking of them.

For more information on how to stay connected during these times, please visit our Protecting Your Mental Health web page.

Be Social Wise during holidays and celebrations

Holidays and celebrations are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemic. All individuals should assess their own level of risk, and the health of every person in their householdor their one to two essential support personswhen deciding how to celebrate. If anyone in your household is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, everyone should choose lower-risk activities to keep them safe.

Grocery Shopping, Meal Planning, and Cooking During COVID-19

Need groceries? Meal planning for the week? Before you go grocery shopping, visit our Grocery Shopping, Meal Planning, and Cooking During COVID-19 webpage to find answers to your questions on food staples to buy, strategies to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 when grocery shopping, storing food, the latest on safety precautions when ordering food, and more.

Help is available

Many stores and services are offering special help for older adults. For example, some grocery stores and pharmacies are opening their doors early and limiting the first hour of the day to older adults or people who are immunocompromised to give them a chance to shop when it is quieter. Call your preferred store or visit their website for the updated store hours and services. You will need to wear a mask at the store unless exempted from wearing one. Visit Resources for people in need | City of Ottawa webpage.


If you need groceries, medication or other essential items, you can also arrange to have a family member, friend, neighbour, or someone else you trust to do this for you. Have items left at the door to minimize contact. Many people are happy to help. *If this is not possible, call 2-1-1 for information on the full range of community, social, government and health services and programs available in Ottawa, and how to access them.

Many services and programs have been impacted by COVID-19 including seniors’ activity centres. It is a good idea to check with your centre to find out what is currently being offered. Many centres continue to coordinate volunteers and plan meals and some have their services to include online activities.

How to Stay Scam Safe!

Some of the common scams taking place in Ottawa may include (but are not limited to):

  • People pretending to be public health or hospital employees, telling you that you have tested positive for COVID-19Please note that public health officials will never ask you for money or for credit card information when calling you.
  • Companies selling fake COVID-19 tests, vaccines or unproven drugs.
  • Fake Hydro Ottawa threats to shut off your power.

Learn more about these and other scams by visiting Ottawa Public Health’s Scams and Misinformation Page, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Ottawa Police Service website

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is true, misinformed or false on television, in the newspapers, on the radio, in person, on websites, on social media (like Facebook, etc.), on the phone and in emails and text messages. 

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has developed tips to help protect you from scammers. If you receive an email, text message or phone call from someone you do not know or that you think is fake, here are some things you can do:

  • Do not give out personal or financial information.
  • Do not be afraid to say no.
  • Do not feel pressured. Know you can always hang up the phone.
  • Do your research. Find out if the person or company is real.
  • Keep your computer and smartphone safe. Do not click on any links, pictures or documents from people you do not know. Delete them. 
  • Be wary of appeals that tug on your heart strings, such as pleas involving patriotism or current events.

In addition, please be aware that: 

  • You should not have to pay a fee to claim a prize or take out a loan.
  • Charitable donations are best made on a charity’s website—not over the phone. 

You can contact the Ottawa Police Service, by completing a report online at the Ottawa Police Service website or by calling 613-236-1222, extension 7300 if you have provided personal information, but not lost any money.  

Older Adults in Long-Term Care (LTC) and Retirement Homes (RH)

Visits to long-term care homes (LTCH) and retirement homes (RH) continue with updated guidance from theOntario Ministry of Health for areas with higher community spread. 

For up to date information about LTCH and RH in Ottawa, please visit the:

For more information on resources available, please visit:

Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

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