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

What older people need to know to stay safe from COVID-19.

Last updated: 29 May 2020

​Older people (generally over 70 years old) may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly if you have any underlying health issues. Information on this page is designed specifically for you, your family and whānau to know how to keep safe and what guidelines to follow during Alert Level 2.

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 with pneumonia. 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

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.

Alert Level 2

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

It is still important to keep a good distance (2 metres) from people we don’t know. That’s because it is harder to contact trace strangers, and limiting interactions is still the best defence against COVID-19.

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

You may 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.

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

Services in the health and disability system at Alert Level 2

During Alert Level 2, you can still 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.

Find information on health and disability services available at level 2

Getting food, supplies and medicines during Alert Level 2

Businesses are opening up at Alert Level 2. That means you can get groceries or prescriptions, and businesses, such as cafes, butchers, bakeries and fishmongers will be open. However, cafes and bars must serve a meal to each customer. They must be able to seat everyone in their premises, keep people separated and you will be served by one person. These rules allow us to keep safe from COVID-19 while ensuring businesses can operate.

Remember to follow good hygiene practices, keep your distance from people you don’t know, and stay home if you’re unwell.

You might still need to reach out to friends, family and neighbours for help, even under Alert Level 2. There are also several support services available who can help you access services you need:

If you need a prescription, call your doctor and they will advise if you should pick it up from the pharmacy or it can be delivered to your doorstep.

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.

Visiting policy in aged residential care under Alert Level 2

During Alert Level 2 more visiting will be allowed, including general family visits and non-essential service visits. However, providers will take precautions and manage visiting in a controlled way to minimise the risk of COVI-19 transmission to residents and staff.

See Visiting policy in aged residential care for more information.

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