COVID-19: Advice for older people and their family and whānau

What you need to know right now to stay safe and healthy.

Last updated: 1 September 2021

This is where you will find information specifically for older people and their family and whānau.

If you are a disability or aged care provider see Disability, aged care and hospice providers.

If you are looking for information for disabled people and their whānau see Information for disabled people and their family and whānau.


On this page:


Staying safe

COVID-19 is an illness that can affect older people more. You may get cold or flu-like symptoms or become short of breath. It’s caused by a type of coronavirus. There are simple steps you can take to protect you and your family/whānau, such as maintaining good hygiene and cleaning practices, and keeping a physical distance from others. Read more about protecting yourself and about COVID-19 and its symptoms.

You may be able to work if you agree with you employer that you can do so safely; however, you should take extra precautions. Discuss with your employer whether you can work from home, or other ways to keep safe while at work or travelling to work. You should also speak to your friends, family or local GP to make sure you are safe.

If you are feeling unwell, you should stay home. Call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to get advice on whether you should be tested.

Protecting yourself through vaccination

Getting your vaccination is an important step you can take to protect yourself and others from the effects of COVID-19.

The vaccine helps prevent you from getting infected and having COVID-19 symptoms, or severe illness. This means you could have no COVID-19 symptoms or will have much fewer, milder symptoms and recover faster.

If you are aged 40+ and haven’t booked your appointments, please call 0800 28 29 26 or visit bookmyvaccine.nz to book them in. If you know an older person who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, please share this information with them.

The COVID-19 vaccination programme is continuing throughout Alert Level 4, so if you already have a booking please keep your appointment.

Vaccination sites are operating under Alert Level 4 settings, to ensure you can safely be vaccinated. This means you must have an appointment and come at your allotted time. You must wear a face covering to your appointment.

If you are required to self-isolate or are not well

Reschedule your booking for a later date. Call 0800 28 29 26 or visit bookmyvaccine.nz


Alert Level 4

At Alert Level 4 people must stay home other than for essential personal movement.

Under Alert Level 4 you can only make physical contact with those in your household bubble.

If you do leave home we encourage you to wear a face covering and keep 2 metres distance from others.

If you visit essential services, such as the supermarket or pharmacy, you must wear a face covering, keep two metres apart from other people and follow good hygiene rules including washing your hands and covering your mouth or sneezing into your elbow. We also encourage anyone under seventy living with you to practice a spirit of manaakitanga/ respect, generosity and care and run these kinds of errands for you.

If you need a prescription, call your doctor and they will advise you if you should pick it up from the pharmacy or it can be delivered to your doorstep. Now’s the time to reach out to friends, family and neighbours for help if you need it. Cafes, restaurants and bars will all be closed while we remain in Level 4.

Right now, the most important thing you can do is to avoid contracting COVID-19. This means being careful, clean and making a plan. Don’t be scared, be prepared.

More advice on building a safe ‘bubble’ for yourself is available in these documents:


Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3 people at higher-risk are encouraged to stay home when possible, and take extra precautions when leaving home, like avoiding supermarkets, or touching surfaces.

Under Alert Level 3 you should continue to stay in your household bubbles whenever you are not at work or school. You should stay within your household bubble but can expand this to connect with close family/whānau, or bring in caregivers, or to support isolated people.

It’s important to protect your bubble once it’s been extended. Keep your bubble exclusive and only include people where it will keep you and them safe and well. If anyone within your bubble feels unwell, they'll need to self-isolate from everyone else within your bubble.

See more advice on building a safe ‘bubble’ for yourself is available in these documents above, ‘Preventing the spread of COVID-19 by building safe bubbles’.

It is highly recommended that you wear a mask/face covering if you are out and about in public. See COVID-19: Use of masks in the community for further guidance.

Limiting interactions with others is your best defence against COVID-19. Under Alert Level 3 we must continue to stay in our household bubbles whenever we are not at work, school, buying the groceries

Visit Alert Levels on the COVID-19 website to find out more.


Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, we can leave our bubbles and connect with family and friends.

You are encouraged to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distance from others. You must legally wear a face covering on public transport and flights and when visiting any healthcare facility and retail business. You can find further information on the COVID-19 website.

You should maintain a two metre distance from other people, except for friends and family. That’s because it is harder to contact trace strangers, and limiting interactions is still the best defence against COVID-19.

You can hold social gatherings, including weddings, family events, religious events, and funerals and tangihanga. These are limited to 50 people in an indoor space, and 100 in an outdoor space.

If you decide to have a gathering you should keep high hygiene standards and a record of who attended to ensure contact tracing can happen in the future if necessary. We must play it safe, as no one wants a second wave of COVID-19. See gatherings and events for further guidance.

People who are at higher risk with underlying health conditions are encouraged to stay home where possible and take extra precautions when leaving home.

Visit Alert Levels  on the COVID-19 website to find out more.


Getting food, supplies and medicines

As an older person you may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as you may have underlying health issues, therefore you might decide to reach out to friends, family and neighbours for help. Remember to follow good hygiene practices, keep your distance from people you don’t know, and stay home if you’re unwell.

There are also several support services available who can help you access services you need:


Services in the health and disability system

During Alert Level 3 you can access essential health services, however some non-urgent health services might be cancelled or delivered in a different way – by phone or video call. This is to ensure health care workers are protected and can help where they are most needed. Contact the health service you want to access to see what level of service you they can provide.

You can find a list of what is classified as essential at Essential services in the health and disability system.


Mental health and wellbeing resources 

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on how we interact with others and go about our daily lives. We know that this, combined with the stress of uncertainty can have an impact on our mental wellbeing. For information and resources to support your mental health and wellbeing, see Mental health and wellbeing resources.

If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. Call your regular health care provider or for support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.


Caring for a person with dementia at home

If you or your whānau are caring for someone with dementia at home, information about ways to ensure you and the person with dementia can stay well can be found at Supporting a person with dementia at home.

If you or the person you are caring for require further support or information contact your local Alzheimers or dementia organisation.

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