Older Adults and COVID-19

Last revised on March 7, 2023 

An enveloppeGet email updates in your inbox. 

Sign up for OPH's Community Operations Newsletter.


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.  

You can reduce risk by avoiding or reducing time spent in the 3 C’s:

  • Closed spaces
  • Crowded places
  • Close contact

Wearing a mask helps to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Some people are medically exempt or unable to wear a mask. 

Eligibility criteria for PCR testing at all Assessment Centres and Care Clinics has changed.  People who have symptoms and are not eligible for testing are presumed to have COVID-19 and must self-isolate.

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. 

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

Getting physical activity and fresh air is important for your overall mental and physical well-being. There are ways to be active, whether at home or outside, while maintaining physical distance.

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 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.

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 household when 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

Help is available

Many stores and services are offering special help for older adults. Call your preferred store or visit their website for the updated store hours and services. 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 Vaccine Booking Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-691-5505

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.

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

Contact Us