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Over 60? Here are the 37 Worst Coronavirus Mistakes

Protect yourself from the deadly virus with this life-saving advice.

You didn't plan to spend the best years of your life hiding from a serial killer that is targeting you and people like you. The CDC says: "8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older." Moreover, even if you manage to survive the disease, you are still at higher risk for severe complications.

But you don't have to lock yourself in a bunker. Although there is no way to ensure to stay 100% free of infection, you can take simple steps to slash your risk of contracting coronavirus and live safe and well into the future. Just avoid each and every one of these common mistakes if you're 60 and up—and share them with a friend or family member like you. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


Attending Gatherings

Group Of Middle Aged Friends Celebrating Birthday In Bar

The White House recommends that everyone avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. And experts are advising that older people avoid all unnecessary gatherings and events. Yes, you're going to miss family milestones, Spring fairs, dinners parties and outdoor festivals, which is regrettable—but doing so ensures you can live to enjoy them in the future. Chances are these gatherings will be canceled anyway, as events are shut down nationwide.


Visiting Nursing Homes

Family of elderly,senior woman,child girl are talking by maintain distancing,prevent infection of flu,Coronavirus,pandemic of Covid-19,people with prevention mask,maintain social distance for safety

It's difficult to go without seeing a friend or loved one who's in a nursing home or rehab facility, and maybe you're in one yourself. But the official recommendation is to postpone those visits for now, unless you're providing critical care. Visit over the phone or online via programs like Zoom or FaceTime or Skype.  


Seeing the Kids or Grandkids

Multi generation black family at home

This one can hurt the most, but it's possibly the most important. It's believed that younger people can spread coronavirus to older people without showing symptoms, and older people have a higher risk of complications. If your visits aren't essential, it's best to move them to the phone or online until the danger passes. This period won't last forever—but it's crucial right now.


Not Social Distancing

Middle Aged Couple Meeting Friends Around Table In Coffee Shop

Even if your locality hasn't recommended it, it's important to work from home and stay home as much as possible. Try to maintain distance between yourself and other people when you go out for essentials or to exercise.


Not Going Outside At All

Man wearing mask with his hand up waving at the window

Social distancing doesn't mean turning your home into a bunker. In fact, experts encourage going outside. It's "more than okay. It's a good idea," said doctors from Johns Hopkins on March 17. Exercise is physically and mentally important, especially in stressful times." Just keep your distance from others, avoid contact sports, and wash your hands when you get home.


Not Exercising

Active senior man exercising on exercise ball in the porch

Exercise is critical to overall health, and it's important to keep up with it daily, even though your gym may be closed. You can walk or jog around the block or your yard, garden, or do things around the house. And there are dozens of workout apps and online programs—from yoga to boxing—that can keep your health on track, no matter your skill level or interest. 


Missing Special Shopping Hours in Your Area

African woman wearing disposable medical mask and gloves shopping in supermarket during coronavirus pandemia outbreak

Many stores across the country, including several big chains like Target, have started having special "seniors only" shopping hours. These are usually right when the store opens. You benefit from smaller crowds, shorter lines, and being able to shop when the store's been freshly cleaned. 


Sharing Misinformation

Laptop and senior woman's hands. Notebook pc on a desk

You weren't born yesterday. But there are people who prey on anxiety in times of crisis, circulating misinformation online. Before you share anything on social media, make sure it comes from a reputable source, such as a major news outlet, health organization, hospital or agency like the CDC or WHO, or a website like this.


Not Washing Your Hands

Mid section of senior man washing hands in the kitchen

Experts say thorough handwashing is the most effective way to avoid contracting viruses, including coronavirus. Wash your hands every time you use the bathroom, return home from a public place, before and after preparing food, and before eating—basically, as often as is practical. 


Not Washing Your Hands Long Enough

Basic protective measures against new coronavirus. Wash hands, use medical mask and gloves. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Maintain social distancing. Wash your hands frequently


Lather up your hands with soap, wash and rinse for 20 seconds total—about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice or—if you want to boogie—"I Will Survive."


Not Getting a Flu Shot

Medication nurse wearing protective gloves and white scrubs get a needle or shot ready for an injection. - Image

If you haven't done it yet, it's still not too late. The shot can reduce your risk of getting the flu, whose symptoms can be mistaken for coronavirus. 


Shaking Hands

retired elderly people and free time, happy senior african american and caucasian male friends greeting and sitting on bench in park

Experts recommend that everyone replace handshakes or greeting hugs with a wave for the time being. That's especially important for people over 60, so you can avoid serious complications.


Letting Your Blood Pressure Rise

Senior woman suffering from high blood pressure sitting at a table in her living room using a blood pressure monitor

If you're taking medication or making lifestyle changes to reduce high blood pressure, it's important to stay on course. High blood pressure has been associated with worse outcomes for people who contract COVID-19. 


Stocking Up on Junk Food

Junk food

When we stock our kitchens for a crisis, we tend to go for the basics—simple carbs (like white bread), processed food and frozen meals, which can be sky-high in sugar and sodium. Those can worsen diabetes and high blood pressure, two conditions associated with COVID-19 complications. Avoid processed food whenever possible and substitute lean proteins, whole grains and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. If you need to buy frozen meals, choose those with the lowest amount of sodium and added sugar.


Avoiding Home Delivery


If you need to get food or medication delivered, don't avoid it out of fear of contracting coronavirus. And if you want to treat yourself to a delivery dinner from your favorite restaurant, go for it. "The risk of contracting coronavirus through food has been, and is, extremely small," Martin Wiedmann, a professor of food safety in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, told the New York Post on March 13. He reminds you, however, to wash your hands after accepting the delivery and handling the packaging.


Using Cash

paying with cash at grocery store

Experts believe that coronavirus can live on paper money for days, increasing the risk of transmission. Pay with plastic whenever you can. 


Not Disinfecting Your Cell Phone

Female hands holding a mobile phone and wipe the screen cloth

Researchers have found our phones can be seven times as dirty as a toilet seat, even during normal times. Make a habit of wiping down your phone with disinfectant once a day. A 50-50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water will do the job.


Not Disinfecting "High-Touch" Surfaces

Senior woman changing tv channel at home

It's a good idea to wipe down things you touch frequently, like keyboards, remote controls and light switches. 


Not Seeking Support

selective focus of depressed african american man sitting with bowed head

Feelings of loneliness aren't uncommon after 60, and they might be especially intense now. Make it a point to reach out to friends and family as often as possible with phone calls and video chats. If you'd like to talk with a professional, it's never been easier, thanks to online services like Talkspace and Brightside. Your healthcare provider might also be able to connect you with a therapist who can do phone or video sessions.  


Going Out If You Feel Sick

old man wear mask and get a cold and cough outdoor

If you're feeling unwell, stay home and call your healthcare provider for advice. You might just have a common cold—but going out with any illness that compromises your immune system could make you more susceptible to coronavirus. 


Not Checking On Others

Cheerful excited joyful intelligent clever glad relaxed grandpa using netbook telling relatives friends

"Social distancing only applies to physical space, not all human connections," doctors from Johns Hopkins said on March 17. "If you know someone who can't go outside, call them regularly." Maintaining those social connections will make both of you feel a lot better. 


Feeling Useless

Contemplating Asian aged woman looking out of the window

This is an unprecedented event, but all of us can take simple, meaningful action to care for others and ourselves. Donate blood to supporting food banks, contribute to children's charities and low-income health clinics, and practice self-care.


Going to an ER If You're Not Seriously Sick

old woman and adult man sit on gray stainless chair waiting medical and health services to the hospital,patients waiting treatment

If you have COVID-19 symptoms—namely, cough, fever and shortness of breath—call your healthcare provider and follow their instructions. Don't go to an ER unless you're having serious trouble breathing; you might infect others.


Overindulging In Alcohol

man pouring a glass of wine

Because of loneliness, stress and medical conditions, it's all too easy for people over 60 to begin self-medicating with booze. That's counterproductive, especially now. Drinking too much can raise your blood pressure and reduce immunity, which can make you more susceptible to coronavirus and its complications. If you're regularly having more than one daily drink (for women) or two (for men), talk with your healthcare provider about reversing that trend.


Settling For Less Sleep

Senior Man Suffering With Neck Pain Sitting On Side Of Bed At Home

You might find it hard to sleep, particularly now. But it's a myth that humans need less sleep as we age, and insomnia can seriously compromise your health. When we sleep, our immune system recharges, and a lack of quality shut-eye has been associated with other serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. Shoot for seven to nine hours a night. If you're getting less, talk with your healthcare provider about how you can get better rest.


Touching Your Face

Beautiful senior woman relaxing at home

This is one of the most common ways to contract illness. Studies show we touch our faces up to a dozen times an hour. You can moisturize your face and use eye drops to reduce itching, or even wear gloves to train yourself to stay hands-down.


Not Self-Quarantining If You Suspect You've Been Exposed

Senior man at home wearing protection mask

This is key to slowing the spread of the virus, experts say. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions.


Not Self-Isolating If You're Infected

Senior woman with insomnia trying to sleep

If you're sick with COVID-19, it's important to occupy a separate bedroom from other members of your family if possible. Avoid sharing glasses, plates, silverware and personal items like towels and bedding until you're recovered.


Taking a Cruise

Senior happy couple taking selfie on ship on harbor background

Cruises have proven to be an early hotspot for coronavirus. In the wake of experts' advice that older people avoid large gatherings at the moment, if you've booked a cruise, it's a good idea to reschedule. 


You're Lying on the Sofa

Pensive frowning senior woman reading online book on tablet at home

"We find ourselves in such a shocking situation right now, it's easy to just curl up on the sofa under a blanket. That's you—right? However, for people our age, we need to remember that our metabolism slows by 5% per decade," warns Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. "This means as we age, we need fewer calories and more exercise! You need to get up off the sofa, keep active and restrict your calorie intake," says Dr. Lee.


You're Eating Red Meat

Cooking burgers on the grill

"You won't like this, but you and me both—we need to cut the fast food and the red meat. Before you groan and stop reading, I want to tell you something. That lump around your middle is your abdominal fat—and if you dig deep into the middle of it, you'll find visceral fat. That's the dangerous fat that's wrapped around all your internal organs," says Dr. Lee

 "Visceral fat is an active tissue producing hormones which are associated with serious medical conditions. They cause chronic inflammation which in turn is associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes, dementia and cancer.  And guess what: Chronic inflammation damages your immune system," advises Dr. Lee. 


You Haven't Had Your BMs Examined

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

"I hazard a guess I'm not alone here, as I bet many others reading this never got around to this either! You know what? It's time to get real—it's your poo or your life! Here's why. Like all aspects of medicine, prevention is better than cure. And so is early detection. Bowel cancer can lie undetected for long periods, possibly years, during which it can be successfully treated. You may be completely unaware you have it," says Dr. Lee.

"Having cancer weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections including COVID-19. Now is the time to get screened and get peace of mind, or if you have it, get treatment and get well. And your poo sample is indeed something you can do from home!" advises Dr. Lee


You've Gone Online Shopping—Again!

Senior lady using her laptop

"How easy is it right now to while away the time clicking buttons on the internet? In time of crisis, shopping can become an addiction, a recognized psychological condition, and gives us a sense of control. However, think of  carbon footprint of the online purchase and delivery, plus the fact this involves the movement of people— which is what we are trying to avoid in terms of spreading the virus," says Dr. Lee.


You Forgot to Take Your Blood Pressure Medication!

Electrocardiogram graph report with stethoscope and pills on it

"You're not alone. Did you know 125,000 US citizens die every year because they did not take their medication correctly? This can have serious consequences. For example, it can lead to poorly controlled diabetes, poor control of blood pressure, and an increased risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Chronic illness weakens the immune system. This is why underlying health conditions make people more susceptible to infections—including COVID-19," say Dr. Lee.


You've Had Another Duvet Day

Senior woman sleeping on bed in bedroom

"At the present time, it's very tempting to just stay in bed. I've stopped setting my alarm clock—what's the point—and I can easily be in bed at midday. People our age are more likely to be retired, or perhaps working from home," says Dr. Lee.

"Sleep is a fascinating subject. So often we read about the dangers of insomnia. But just now perhaps we should be focussing on the dangers of too much sleep? Adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Association. This also applies to the older person," advises Dr. Lee.


Remember, This Isn't Forever

senior woman wearing protective medical mask for protection from virus at home

This is going to be a tough period. You may feel isolated, and with no structure to your day, depressed. Remind yourself that this is a temporary way of life. Make a list of all the amazing things you want to do with your life—and start today the ones you can do indoors. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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