COVID-19: This is how older people protect themselves against the corona virus

COVID-19: This is how older people protect themselves against the corona virus

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Risk group number one: This is how older people can protect themselves against the corona virus

More and more people are becoming infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The risk of a serious illness increases significantly in advanced age. In order to minimize the risk of infection for senior citizens, visits to old people's homes have now been restricted. But there are more measures that can protect older people from the virus.

The number of COVID-19 diseases caused by the novel coronavirus is increasing significantly. As the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) explains, the risk of a serious illness from 50 to 60 years increases steadily with age. According to the experts, older people in particular can become more seriously ill after an infection due to the less well-reacting immune system. It is therefore important to protect this risk group particularly well from the virus.

No reason to panic

The coronavirus wave is rolling through Germany and the elderly and the elderly are number one risk group when it comes to infections, especially acute respiratory infections.

"Nevertheless, there is no need to panic," explains Professor Hans Jürgen Heppner, President of the German Geriatric Society (DGG) and chief physician of the Geriatric Clinic at HELIOS Clinic Schwelm and holder of the Chair for Geriatrics at the University of Witten / Herdecke .

According to the doctor, rumors and recommendations that old people should best isolate themselves at home are unfounded. "Grandma and grandpa can and should continue to be visited," says the experienced geriatrician. But he urges prudence and increased hygiene measures. Also going to church around Easter or the larger family celebration are not a good idea at the moment.

Older people are more susceptible to infections

As explained in the DGG Communication, the immune system (immune senescence) also ages with humans. The defense against infections works slower and weaker than that in younger people.

Basically, seniors are more susceptible to infections, especially acute respiratory infections, as is often the case with regular influenza flu and now also with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

"In addition, the elderly often have many pre-existing and chronic comorbidities," explains DGG President Heppner. "If older age and chronic illnesses come together or even several chronic illnesses (multimorbidity), the risk of infection and death increases."

Geriatricians (geriatricians) experience this every year in the course of the flu season: In the past few years, around 90 percent of deaths due to influenza affected the 60+ age group.

Accordingly, geriatricians draw the same conclusion with regard to the as yet unknown coronavirus: The group of seniors and geriatric patients has the highest risk of becoming seriously ill or of dying from the virus.

The chief virologist of the Charité, Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, according to the DGG, even predicts a possible death rate of up to 25 percent.

Protect people beyond retirement age

“Beyond retirement age, we really have to protect the population,” says Heppner, “but please do everything beyond panic! Nobody will be locked away for months, there will be no ban on contact and social isolation is by no means the solution. ”

On the contrary: Social isolation can also make people sick. However, the expert also urges relatives to rethink any family arrangements.

“The next few months, the grandparents will not be a substitute for daycare or all-day school, as painful as that is. But rather, children and grandchildren should go shopping for the grandparents, if possible, so that they don't have to go to the supermarket and are exposed to the risk of infection. ”

The 10 most important tips for everyday life:

1. Frequently washing hands with soap and water for approx. 20 seconds (disinfectant additives are usually not necessary).

2.Dry your hands thoroughly after washing (change towels every day).

3. Avoid shaking hands or close physical contact such as hugs to greet you.

4. Keep your distance from people who sneeze or cough.

5. Use disposable handkerchiefs.

Wash hands again after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.

7. Avoid large crowds and close physical contact (rather go to church at Easter in front of the television and reduce family celebrations to individual visits).

8. Cancel group trips (prefer to go to the museum with few people)

9. Walk in the fresh air to train your immune system.

10. Make up for pneumococcal vaccination if it has not already been done.

Vaccination is good prophylaxis

The DGG appeals to all seniors to have a pneumococcal vaccination or to get vaccinated:

"Talk to your family doctor and complete your vaccination against seasonal flu and pneumococci, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO)," said Dr. Anja Kwetkat, director of the clinic for geriatrics at the University Hospital Jena and spokeswoman for the AG-Impfen within the DGG.

"Pneumococcal vaccination is extremely important, since vaccinated patients develop pneumonia with significantly milder symptoms than non-vaccinated patients."

Because: Similar to the flu, the coronavirus is not the virus itself, but the resulting pneumonia in the end, fatal. Pneumococcal vaccination is good prophylaxis in every respect. (Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Society for Geriatrics (DGG): PM: Corona Virus: How Older People Can Protect Themselves or "No Kiss for Grandma", (accessed: March 15, 2020), German Society for Geriatrics (DGG)
  • Robert Koch Institute (RKI): Information and support for people at higher risk for a severe COVID-19 disease course, (access: March 15, 2020), Robert Koch Institute (RKI)

Video: COVID-19: Social Distancing for Older Adults (August 2022).