How to protect your elderly relatives and neighbours

Here Annabel James, co-founder of Age Space, tells you how to support an elderly relative during coronavirus

As older people with respiratory diseases or other underlying health conditions are most at risk of contracting Covid-19, it seems sensible to try to plan ahead – whether self-isolation is voluntary or imposed – particularly if they live a distance away and on their own at home.

Here’s how you can help.


Make a list of the regular medication your relative takes. Review their prescriptions and register online for the Electronic Prescription Service – so medication can be delivered to the pharmacy without needing a trip to the doctor. Providers like Boots and The Co-op provide a similar service. You can sign up on behalf of someone else but will need the right information. For all NHS prescriptions this is a free service.  Delivery times are currently between 5-7 days if the prescription comes directly from the GP to one of these delivery providers. Also, stock up the first aid kit – paracetamol, plasters, antiseptic, eye drops, cotton buds, incontinence pads, etc.


Of course it makes sense to have the staples in the cupboard/freezer and fridge – but not enough to start your own shop!re Combining a regular shopping delivery with a “socially distanced” or doorstep chat. Ask another relative, neighbour, cleaner or someone else local to drop by on your behalf when you’re not able to. Book online supermarket delivery services at least a week ahead.  It may be worth setting up a regular order now for the duration of this situation.  You can always cancel it.  Consider a daily milk delivery, which can also deliver basic groceries to the door.


Meal delivery services

If your relative needs meal delivery services, you may find that local groups – such as the local church, pub, or charities – provide a service akin to Meals on Wheels. National providers such as Wiltshire Farm Foods, Oakhouse Foods, or retailers such as Cook! might also be worth contacting. Anecdotal feedback suggests that they too are experiencing high demand – so book well ahead.

Keeping connected

Self-isolation for an elderly person who already lives alone can cause more loneliness.  The NHS has videos and exercise plans for a range of needs – from improving flexibility to general fitness. 

Combine the best of tech with human solutions.  Daily emails or hand-written letters are such an easy way to connect. If your relatives have a computer or smartphone, set up Skype or WhatsApp so you can have regular face to face chats with them. Agree specified times of day so that they can expect your call.  The Silver Line has an excellent weekly call service, as does Age UK. You may also find other local befriending/buddy services that provide telephone calls. 

Staying healthy

Taking usual exercise may not be possible, but there are plenty of ways of keeping healthy; just walking round the garden every day is something. Or perhaps indoor exercises for those without enough space.  

Being busy

Rather than just relying on the TV or radio for entertainment, try to encourage new projects – researching the family tree, taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill. Maybe even a new language.  

Online courses are offered by the University of the Third Age (U3A) at Access the best university courses here and overseas through organisations such as

If it’s not possible to go online, create a reading list and share books (either physical books or audiobooks).  Urge relatives who are able to, to enjoy domestic chores – gardening, clearing cupboards, making jam, fiddling about in the garage. For the more infirm – a jigsaw can wile away the hours. Anything to keep relatives as occupied as possible.

Join the Age Space forum at, or email us at [email protected] for further guidance.

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