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Older people at increased risk in the poorest countries with the spread of coronavirus

Published on 15 March 2020 12:00 AM

Governments and communities worldwide must ensure that older people in the poorest communities and their right to health are protected if coronavirus (Covid-19) takes hold.

Age International is particularly concerned because older people and those already in poor health are most at risk of mortality from the virus.

Responses to Covid-19 which require minimizing contact between people may isolate older people and increase their vulnerability. Older people may find it harder to access medical services, basic goods and contact with friends and family. The risk of this happening is far higher in countries with less developed health and social care systems, where access to medical services and other forms of care and support can be challenging.

Age International rejects suggestions that have been made in some quarters of the media that the death of older people as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic can in some way be beneficial or matters less to society. All governments, international actors and service providers are duty-bound to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable in society are met regardless of their age.

Chris Roles, Managing Director of Age International said:

“Governments need to ensure that older people are able to access the medical and social help they need, and are not overlooked or marginalised in this crisis. 

“We know the virus is widespread now and affecting all ages, but we also know that older people and those with medical conditions are especially vulnerable. We cannot ignore their needs, nor the vital contributions that older people make to their families and communities. So it is essential that older people and their families are able to receive clear information and advice about how to keep safe. Health services must properly include older people and not overlook them.”

Age International is supporting efforts in lower income countries to respond to the challenges posed by the virus. Our partners are working hard alongside older people to make sure that their needs and rights are understood and met.

If Covid-19 takes hold in areas already affected by humanitarian crisis, it can be devastating for those populations who are already suffering high levels of deprivation. It is essential that humanitarian responses are proactive in identifying older people and ensure that they are provided with the right guidance and support, as well as other groups who are at risk.

To find out more about the global context, please visit the World Health Organisation (WHO) 

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Last updated: Mar 24 2020

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