Older Adults and COVID-19

Last revised on July 20, 2020.

Ottawa Public Health states that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 to 60 years. In Ottawa, 90% of persons who died from COVID-19 were 70 years of age or older, but, as of June 30, 2020, there have been 7 deaths in the 50 to 59 years age group and 19 deaths in the 60 to 69 years age group. In addition to increasing age, people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions (cardiovascular, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung, chronic liver, cancer, immunocompromise) or severe obesity are at higher risk for severe illness. Every individual needs to take into account their personal risk factors when making decisions about going out.

If you develop COVID-19-related symptoms, please present yourself for testing at an Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care Clinic.

If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

Follow these general instructions on self-isolation.

Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page

Do you have questions about COVID-19, healthy aging or caregiving for someone 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 where adults 55 years of age and older and caregivers go to get in the know!

Maintaining a Positive Mental Health

  • Check in with yourself. It’s ok not to be ok. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311 if needed. 
  • Stay connected to others in different ways. Check in with others by phone or other technology.
  • For resources, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

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

Need groceries? Meal planning for the week? Before you go grocery shopping, visit our meal planning, shopping, and cooking during COVID-19 page to find answers to your questions on food staples to buy, strategies to avoid the spread 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.

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.

While seniors' activity centres across Ottawa have shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable older adult population, senior/community centres continue to coordinate volunteers, plan meals, and reach out by phone.

To see what temporary changes are being offered, visit the Regional Geriatric Program of Eastern Ontario (RGPEO) website to see the latest updates.  

Learn more on food resources for isolated seniors. 

Remember to Practice Physical Distancing

Physical distancing means creating physical distance between ourselves so that we can limit the spread of the virus. Encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.

Physical distancing includes:

  • avoiding visits from loved ones
  • avoiding visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, hospices, and other large settings unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • avoiding non-essential trips in the community
  • keeping the windows down if you must go into the community for an essential trip via taxi or rideshare
  • limiting or cancelling group gatherings
  • holding virtual meetings
  • If you need groceries, medication or other essential items, you can arrange to have a family member, friend, neighbour, or anyone else who is not in self-isolation 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.
  • If you have to be in contact with others, be COVIDWise: wear a mask when you are in indoor public spaces (mandatory in most indoor public spaces) and when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet), stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household and wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face.

Learn more about the Guidance for Multi-Unit Dwellings by visiting OPH’s website for Community Partners and Service Providers.

How to Stay Scam Safe!

When people are feeling scared and lonely, especially during COVID-19, they can be targeted by scammers. Learn about some of the common scams taking place in the Ottawa area at the Ottawa Police website.

Here are examples of scams taking place now:

  • People pretending to be public health or hospital employees telling you that you tested positive for COVID-19;
  • Companies selling fake COVID-19 tests, or selling unproven drugs;
  • Hydro Ottawa threatening to shut off your power.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is real or fake on television, in the newspapers, on the radio, in person, on websites, on Facebook, and through emails and text messages.

Here are some tips from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to help you deal with scammers:  

  • Do not be afraid to say no.
  • Do not be pressured and know you can always hang up the phone.
  • Do your research. Be sure that the person or company is real and call them back.
  • Do not give out personal information. If you get a call or email from someone you do not know, do not give them your personal or financial information. 
  • You should not have to pay a fee to claim a prize or take out a loan.
  • Keep your computer and smartphone safe. Do not click on links from people you do not know. Delete them.  

You can learn more about current scams and fraud by going to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

If you think you received a fake email, text message, or phone call, here are some things you can do:

  • Do not open any links or documents sent to you.
  • Do not donate to charities over the phone. Go to their website to donate.
  • Hang up.
  • Do not give any personal or financial information.
  • Contact the Ottawa Police Services at 613-236-1222, extension 7300. You do not have to give your name when you call. You can also give a report online at the Ottawa Police website.

If you think this is an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Let’s Talk COVID-19 and Reopening with Older Adults

On Wednesday June 3, Aging Well in Ottawa hosted a Facebook Live event with Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches discussing COVID-19, the community resuming many of its activities and what it means for older adults. If you missed it, you can still watch the Facebook Live event with Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health.

We received many great questions on a variety of COVID-19 topics. We have compiled your questions and prepared answers in the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Part 1 and Part 2.

The situation around COVID-19 is continually evolving and new guidance may result in changes to some of these answers. We encourage you to visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus as well as our Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook Page to get the latest information about COVID-19.

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

How LTC homes and RH are helping residents stay connected with family and friends:

  • Encourage family/friends of residents to use technology to stay in touch. Some residents may have telephone lines or cell phones.
  • Assign the recreation staff to help with Skype calls, FaceTime, and reading emails from loved ones.
  • Encourage care packages from family/friends to let them know that someone is thinking about them (please remember if someone is experiencing respiratory symptoms, including cough, sore throat, and runny nose, they should not prepare and send care packages).
  • Create an email inbox and send regular updates to the residents’ families.
  • Encourage family/friends to put up signs on the home’s lawns with nice messages.

Here are some ideas that LTC homes have already initiated:

  • Emails presented to residents as letters or can be read aloud.
  • Photos sent by email and shared with residents.
  • Helping residents write messages on white boards, and sending a picture of message to family/friends by email.

How can residents maintain their physical activity?

  • As long as your LTC home or RH is not experiencing an outbreak, ensure that residents are able to exercise within their own ability levels, either inside or outside the home.

What does Ottawa Public Health do when there is a COVID-19 outbreak in LTC or RH?

  • Implement facility-wide outbreak management control measures (All residents isolated in their rooms)
  • Close dining room and all activities (meals provided to rooms)
  • All staff to wear a mask when entering the building and while in the building
  • Droplet/contact precautions for all residents’ rooms
  • Staff only work at 1 facility
  • All facilities are screening anyone entering the facility

Ministry on Ontario Guidance Document

Resources available:

Let’s Talk COVID-19 and Reopening with Older Adults


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