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Later Life Guide

Health issues and concerns of older adults: solutions, strategies, and support

Note: visit the information and links on our collections on Coronavirus and COVID-19 Information: Santa Clara County and California for up to date information on current requirements and for more links to resources for medical assistance, economic support, and coping with this pandemic. 

Emergency hotlines and "warm lines" for information, referrals and support during the pandemic:

  • in the Bay Area (and some others) 211 phone and text services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in 150 languages through phone interpretation services. Text services are available in English and Spanish and can be initiated by texting the message “coronavirus” to 211211.
  • California statewide hotline 1-833-544-2374 for questions about COVID-19, assistance finding information online, or clarification regarding the information, available 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • peer-staffed Friendship Line California "warm line" 1-888-670-1360 is available 24/7 for seniors who want to reach out.

Pandemic stress and isolation has been, still is, and may continue to be really hard on older adults. Please take a look at the collection of resources on our webpage  Coping With the Pandemic for support in these tough times.

COVID-19 Risks for Older Adults

As we learn more about coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it appears that people of all ages can transmit the virus, but disease symptoms tend to be more severe in older people. Fatalities from COVID-19 are much higher in people over 70 than in those under 60.

Based on what we know now, The Centers for Disease Control warns that those at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • People aged 65 and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Adults of any age with these underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled. (All of these are more common in older adults, too.)
  • chronic lung disease (unclear whether asthma or allergies are a risk factor)
  • serious heart conditions
  • being immunocompromised. 
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease (undergoing dialysis)
  • liver disease
  • Anyone without good access to healthcare, nutrition, or housing.

The Centers for Disease Control warns to get medical treatment immediately if these symptoms appear:

  • trouble breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest [or back]
  • new confusion, or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face.

Local Resources for At-Risk Older Adults

Many programs for seniors and other at-risk people are described on our resource guide for COVID-19 and Coronavirus Information: California and Santa Clara County.

Advance Care Planning Considerations for COVID-19

One of the most heart-breaking aspects of COVID-19 is that people who are seriously ill are separated from their family and friends. If they're on a ventilator they may not be able to tell the healthcare team how they wish to be treated.

During this pandemic, it is a very good idea for us all to think about our preferences, and to document those in an Advance Care Directive. 

The information in these webpages is all relevant during the pandemic. To help people think about their wishes if they get seriously ill with COVID-19, the Conversation Project has these quick information documents:

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators or copyright holders.