Older Adults and COVID-19

Last revised on August 31, 2020.

Ottawa Public Health states that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 years of age. In Ottawa, 90% of persons who died from COVID-19 were 70 years of age or older; however, an increasing number of people needed hospitalizations and intensive care above the age of 50 years. 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. Every individual needs to consider their personal risk factors when making decisions about going out and remember to always be COVIDWise.

Ottawa Public Health recommends that Older Adults avoid non-essential trips in the community as much as possible. When going out into the community, remember that it is very important to be COVIDWise:

Wearing a mask can help reduce transmission of COVID-19. Some people are medically exempt or unable to wear a mask or may be adjusting to wearing one. Let’s all be COVID Kind and be respectful of those who cannot wear a mask.

If you develop COVID 19-related symptoms, please get tested at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre or Care Clinic. 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 symptoms), 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 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 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 okay not to be okay. 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. Check in with others by phone or other technology.
  • For resources, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

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 be active both at home and outside.

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

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. Here are some tips to stay connected:

  • Connect with family and friends through the phone, texting, video chats, and social media.
  • You can hug and touch each other within your household.
  • Visit a museum (www.Nature.ca) or art gallery (www.Gallery.ca) 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 webpage.

The Province of Ontario now allows the creation of a Social Circle of 10 or fewer people. For more information about building your social circle, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health How to Create a Social Circle During COVID-19 page.

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. You will need to wear a mask at the store unless exempted from wearing one.

Learn more on food resources for isolated seniors and Take Away Meals available for people living in need in downtown Ottawa.

If you need groceries, medication or other essential items, you can arrange to have a family member, friend, neighbour, or anyone 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.

As services and programs impacted by COVID-19 gradually reopen it is important to note that some seniors’ activity centres may remain closed for longer periods. It is a good idea to check with your seniors’ activity centre to find out what is currently being offered. Many senior/community centres continue to coordinate volunteers, plan meals, and reach out by phone. As well, some have extended their services to include online activities.

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

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-19;
  • Companies selling fake COVID-19 tests or unproven drugs;
  • Fake Hydro Ottawa threats to shut off your power.

Learn more about these and other scams by visiting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Ottawa Police 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 through emails and text messages. Public health officials when calling you will never ask you for money or for credit card information.

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 information.
  • Do not give them your financial information.
  • Do not be afraid to say no.
  • Do not feel pressured and 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. 
  • You should not have to pay a fee to claim a prize or take out a loan.
  • Be wary of appeals that tug on your heart strings, such as pleas involving patriotism or current events.
  • Do not donate to charities over the phone. Go directly to their website to donate.

You can also 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 it 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 all 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)

Visits to long-term care homes (LTCH) and retirement homes (RH) have begun again under the guidance of the Ontario Ministry of Health.

For up to date information about Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes in Ottawa, please visit:

For more information on resources available, please visit:

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