Physical Distancing 101 for Older Adults

Last revised on March 26, 2020.

Physical distancing by all is IMPERATIVE to limit the transmission of the COVID-19 in our community, to protect vulnerable populations and to prevent outbreaks in institutions. 

What does this mean for older adults?

We know that there is an increased risk of severe disease for:

  • older people
  • people with chronic disease (for example, diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease)
  • people with compromised immune systems

That is why it is so important to practice physical distancing and encourage our friends, family and neighbors to do the same.

Physical distancing means creating physical distance between ourselves so that we can limit the spread of the virus. Basically, it means staying at least 2 meters or (6 feet) away from other people.

Physical distancing also 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
  • spending time outside and in settings where you can stay 2 meters (6 feet) from each other

Don’t forget that you can ask your loved ones or neighbours to run errands, pick up medications and/or groceries and drop it off at your door. Many people are happy to help in situations like this.

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.

  • Sobeys said it will devote the first hour after opening to customers who require extra attention, such as older adults.
  • Farm Boy will open stores an hour early most days for older adults, pregnant women and those with disabilities.
  • Loblaw Companies Limited notes that many of its nearly 2,500 grocery stores and Shoppers Drug Mart locations are either dedicating their first hour after opening to older adults and those with disabilities or opening earlier for them.
  • As well, both Loblaw Companies Limited and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies offer free prescription deliveries and have lowered prices on items for home delivery as well as eliminating fees for delivery and pickup. Your own independent pharmacy may also offer more services for older adults at this time.
  • Rexall Pharmacy Group is offering the first opening hour to customers over the age of 55 and those with disabilities. The company will offer its seniors discount each day until 10 a.m. Rexall also offers prescription delivery through its website.
  • Your Independent Grocer stores are offering special considerations for older adults.
  • Costco offers a 2-day delivery option for non-perishable products and household supplies.
  • Those in need of information and referral about local emergency food options can contact 2-1-1. They can explore organizations and services available in their area (such as food banks, food delivery services, etc.)

Seniors/Community Centers

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

  • At Meals on Wheels, the kitchen continues to prepare fresh food to be delivered by volunteers.
  • The Good Companions  offers the Seniors' Centre Without Walls, a free interactive teleconference that allows seniors and adults with disabilities to listen in on lectures. Transportation is also still available for seniors heading to urgent medical appointments. 
  • The Good Companions, along with other seniors' centres including Olde Forge Community Resource Centre and Abbotsford House at the Glebe Centre are continuing check-in calls to vulnerable older adults. 
  • Some of the centres are also helping seniors set up delivery programs with local grocery stores so they don't have to go to the stores themselves. 
  • Please connect with your local community centres for more information.
  • Ottawa also has several food banks where older adults can get help.

One important thing to remember is that physical distancing does not mean emotional distancing.

  • Stay connected to others in different ways. Check in with others by phone or other technology.
  • 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. For more information, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

Those in need of information and referral about local emergency food options can contact 2-1-1. They can explore organizations and services available in their area (such as food banks, food delivery services, etc.)


In order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health is now recommending that all residents of Ottawa practice physical distancing. The above Youtube video explains what is physical distancing. 

Read video script

With more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ottawa, we are asking that all people in Ottawa practice physical (social) distancing 

What is physical distancing?

  • Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with.
  • Through physical distancing, we can flatten the curve. That means, decrease the number of people ill all at once, so that the healthcare system can keep up and continue to provide life-saving care.

How can you  practice physical distancing?

Here are a few examples:

  • Limit non-essential trips out of the home
  • work to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from other people, as much as possible. 
  • Work from home if you can
  • Avoid visits to long-term care homes, or retirement homes unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • Avoid non-essential trips in the community
  • Limit or cancel group gatherings, including play-dates for children
  • Older adults should avoid gathering in groups of 5 or more at this time

Why you need to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from others:

The human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that come out when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Our collective efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones, and our most vulnerable. Stay home if you are able to.

Contact Us