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: 7 October 2020

Alert Levels update

  • From midday Friday 12 March, all of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1.
  • You are legally required to wear a face mask or covering on all public transport and flights throughout New Zealand.
  • For more information about Alert Levels, see the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Anyone who has cold or flu symptoms, including muscle aches and fatigue, should get a test and stay home until you have a negative test result. Find your local testing facility on the Healthpoint website.

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.

Alert Level 2

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

Events at home and outside of your home can have up to 100 people, including weddings, family events, religious events, and funerals and tangihanga.

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.

At Alert Level 2 you should wear a mask/face covering in situations where physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport or shops. COVID-19: Use of masks in the community 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.

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.

For more information on how to manage your bubble, including if you live in a retirement village see Managing your bubble during COVID-19

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.

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.

Find information on health and disability services available at Alert Level 2.

Find information on health and disability services available at Alert Level 3.

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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