Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do everything. For those of us in our golden years, we have to be especially careful—and here’s why: as we age, our immune systems get weaker, which makes it more challenging for older adults to fight off infectious diseases.

In addition, many of us have underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer. These chronic health conditions create a higher risk for more serious complications and even death from COVID-19.

Despite what many may people think or say, COVID-19 is not just another flu-type illness. The main symptoms of this coronavirus appear between two and 14 days after exposure, with symptoms that include fever, cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Infected people can even show no symptoms at all and unwittingly spread the disease.

How to Stay Safe

So what is the most important thing to do to stay safe? Because COVID-19 is thought to mainly spread between people in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes, social distancing is an important component of safety. You must stay at least six feet apart from others. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions that can put them at increased risk should stay at home to avoid being around others.

You might think you have to leave your house for necessities such as groceries or medication, but today it’s easier than ever to order online and have them delivered directly to your home or to store to a designated pickup area. You don’t even have to get out of your car! So how does this work?

If you have an internet connection in your home, you can order from your favorite store and choose a home delivery option. Companies like Shipt and Instacart do the shopping for you and then deliver your purchases to your door. If your computer skills are lacking, ask a family member to help you to get you going. Keep in mind that many of these services are experiencing delays due to the high volume of people choosing the safety of online ordering rather that in-person shopping. This means you will need to plan ahead—perhaps even a week or two in advance. Realize also that many stores have limits or certain products, such as paper products or meats, and may not have what you want in stock.

For medications, check with your pharmacy to see if you can order your medications online or can get a 90-day supply if you don’t already. Be sure you have all over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.

If this isn’t an option, see if you can enlist the help of family members or neighbors who might do the shopping for you. There are plenty of people willing to help during this time.

If you must leave your home, then follow the following precautions:

  • Stop handshaking and hugging, even with close family members.
  • Make sure you have hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol with you and use it frequently.
  • Many stores offer hours just for older adults. Take advantage of these times and days.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Sanitize hands at the door and regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Create habits and reminders to avoid touching your face and cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow.

When you get home…

  • Dispose of plastic bags immediately and wipe down all groceries with a disposable disinfectant wipe.
  • Leave your shoes outside in the sun and change clothes or shower as soon as you get home.
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables and handrails.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.

Stay home if…

  • You are feeling sick.
  • You have a sick family member in your home.

Working together, we can keep each other safe. Hang in there and these days will soon be behind us!