Senior Health

Social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine. Most of us didn’t expect to hear these terms used so much this spring. But, suddenly, the world is in the middle of an outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Many of us are staying home as much as possible, distancing ourselves from other people in the hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

COVID-19 seems even more dangerous for people over 65 and anyone with underlying health issues, so many of us are being extra cautious. While avoiding other people might be the best way to stay healthy right now, it’s not always possible. Here are 10 tips for staying healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak, whether you’re in your home or out in the community.

  1. Stay home if possible.

    Most events, classes, meetings, and church services have been cancelled for the time being. If you have loved ones in a nursing home or hospital, check the facility’s current visitation policy before visiting; you may have to stay in touch with loved ones via phone right now. Check all businesses’ hours and policies before heading out for necessary trips, including medical appointments. This situation changes every day, and all organizations are having to adjust.

  2. Wash your hands often.

    A quick rinse won’t get the job done, though. To be thorough, you need to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, making sure to scrub between all of your fingers, the backs of your hands, under your fingernails, and your wrists. Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing, and after touching surfaces that might collect and carry germs, like computer keyboards, phones, and TV remotes.

  3. Use hand sanitizer.

    Gel-based hand sanitizer, as long as it’s at least 60% alcohol, is a good substitute for hand washing, if you don’t have access to soap and water. It is in high demand right now, though, so if you can’t find any, you can even make your own. The World Health Organization’s formula for hand sanitizer is two parts 99 percent isopropyl alcohol to one part aloe vera gel.

  4. Wipe down surfaces, including phones and TV remotes.

    The coronavirus can live on surfaces from a few hours to over a week, depending on conditions. To avoid spreading germs, disinfect objects and surfaces that many people in your home might touch. If you’re worried about using disinfecting wipes on your smart phone, you should know that Apple has declared it safe to wipe down the exterior surfaces of your phone with a 70% isopropyl wipe. Don’t use bleach, though, and avoid getting moisture in any openings.

  5. Don’t touch your face.

    Hands can pick up viruses, which can then enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth.

  6. Practice social distancing.

    If you do have to leave home and be around people, try to stay at least 3 feet away from them. This reduces the risk that someone’s sneeze or cough infects you. If you’re sick (and can’t stay home), make sure to sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw it away.

  7. Avoid crowds.

    While many “non-essential” gatherings have been canceled, you may still have to shop for groceries or get prescriptions filled. If you’re over 60, check to see if your local store has implemented a special time for seniors to shop. Because COVID-19 seems to be more serious—and lethal—to seniors, some stores like Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Dollar General, and Target are reserving time for seniors to shop, usually the first open hour of the morning.

  8. Avoid touching surfaces with your fingertips.

    Use a knuckle to press an elevator button, or use your arm instead of your palm to steady yourself on a handrail. You’re less likely to touch your face later with a body part other than your fingertip.

  9. Don’t browse with your hands.

    If you’re at the grocery store or pharmacy, just try to touch as few things as possible. Browse with your eyes instead, and only touch items you intend to buy.

  10. Go cashless.

    Use your debit or credit card instead of paying with cash. The cashier won’t have to handle your cash, and you won’t have to handle cash that’s been in someone else’s wallet, the register, the cashier’s hands, and then into your hands. Punch in your PIN with a knuckle or make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after using the PIN pad.