The WHO is urging everyone to guard the 'collective wisdom of our societies' and help old people during the coronavirus outbreak
- Older adults are at higher risk for severe illnesses from the COVID-19 virus.
- "We need to work together to protect older people from the virus," World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. "Older people carry the collective wisdom of our societies."
- One of the best ways younger people can help protect older adults during this outbreak is to stay physically away from them, so the elders have fewer chances to be exposed to the coronavirus, if it is circulating in a population.
- But "physical distance doesn't mean social distance," Tedros said.
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Anyone can catch COVID-19, but the illness does not treat everyone equally.
It's especially brutal to older adults.
"We need to work together to protect older people from the virus," World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, on a call with reporters. "They are valued and valuable members of our families and communities, but they're at higher risk of the more serious complications of COVID-19."
And older people are by far one of the most vulnerable sectors of the population when it comes to dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
In the US, 80% of COVID-19 deaths have been in patients who are at least 65 years old, according to an early Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Data from New York City, the epicenter of the US outbreak, shows there have been a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in people under 18. That's a very different scenario from seasonal flu.
"Older people carry the collective wisdom of our societies," Tedros said. "Ensure their needs are being met for food, fuel, prescription medication, and human interaction."
Tedros also reminded the world that it's OK to check in virtually on older people, to help keep them safe. The novel coronavirus is chiefly spread between people through their respiratory droplets, which are spewed out of the nose and throat of an infected person in their coughs, sneezes, and spit. This means keeping grandparents physically away from grandkids at this time can, quite literally, save their lives.
"Physical distance doesn't mean social distance," Tedros said. "We all need to check in regularly on older parents, neighbors, friends, or relatives who live alone or in care homes in whatever ways possible, so they know how much they're loved and valued."
In the US, the AARP has an online platform called "Neighbors Helping Neighbors," where local volunteers across that country can come together to offer to pick up groceries for people who may not be able to get out of their house, or provide emotional support. There's also Savo, where you can create a "village" of people to help divvy up child care, elder care, or pet care, by having volunteers take on different daily tasks.
If you're feeling lonely, there's also an AARP hotline where you can submit a request to have a volunteer call and check in on you, just to see how you're doing.
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