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A page by the Federal Ministry of Health

Bundesministerium für Gesundheit
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Information for older persons

Covid-19 diseases are often particularly dangerous for people over 60. Here you will find concrete advice for the older generation.

Information for risk groups

The risk of an infection becoming more serious is higher for people over the age of 60. Due to a less responsive immune system, the disease can be more severe with people over the age of 60 (immune senescence). In addition, symptoms such as fever, which are our body’s response to an infection, may be exhibited in weaker form or even be absent altogether, which is why this group often only visits the doctor at a later stage.

At the moment, the number of people with whom you are in personal contact should be reduced to a bare minimum. When meeting other people in person, remember to stick to the basic hygiene principles summed up by the DHM formula: Maintain a distance (at least 1.5 metres), adhere to hygiene rules (be considerate when coughing and sneezing, washing hands) and wear a non-medical face mask (community mask) where there is little room. People who belong to the high-risk group should only receive a small number of visitors and, if possible, always meet with the same people. Limit the length of the visit and ideally plan your meetings outside, where the risk of infection is lower than in enclosed spaces. Should you be unable to meet up outside, regularly open windows and ensure good circulation of air within the room. Avoid close physical contact, which involves a risk of droplet infection. First call doctors’ practices or pharmacies before you visit in person, and ideally have medication or prescriptions brought to you by contact people. Feel free to accept offers by friends and family, or other initiatives, to do your shopping or provide other forms of assistance.

Not every infection with the novel coronavirus among people with pre-existing conditions becomes more serious. The statements on pre-existing conditions representing additional risk factors are based primarily on mathematical statements on probabilities. The risk factors (LINK Artikel) include pre-existing cardiovascular diseases and those of the lung, liver, as well as diabetes and cancer. A diminished immune system due to medication (such as cortisone), obesity and lungs affected by smoking also constitute risk factors. Some risk factors can also mutually exacerbate one another. This means that older people with pre-existing conditions and other risk factors need to pay particular attention to avoid infection. By following the DHM formula (keep a distance, respect the hygiene rules and, where there is little space, wear a non-medical face mask or “community mask”), everyone can do their part to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. If you have questions regarding your own symptoms, please contact your doctor.

More information can be found in the article entitled “Ältere Menschen sowie Menschen mit Vorerkrankungen müssen sich besonders schützen” (English translation: older people as well people with pre-existing conditions must protect themselves especially).

No, an influenza vaccination has no effect on how an infection with the novel coronavirus will proceed. The influenza vaccination can, however, lower the risk of influenza, which can help decrease the strain on the healthcare system.

A vaccination against pneumococcal infection does not help against a Covid-19 infection. However, pneumococcal infections can lead to severe pneumonia and sepsis and may require intensive care, in some cases with ventilation. Vaccination is intended to avoid further strain on the health system. We currently recommend vaccinating seniors from the age of 70 as well as patients with chronic respiratory illness and immune deficiency. 

There is a wide range of online fitness programmes for use at home. For older people, the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln), for example, offers a specially-designed home training programme. The ff100.de programme is available here. The “Ageing Healthily” programme by the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) offers online tips for exercising at home. Additional tips on how to keep fit are also available here.

Finding help

If you need medication, first call your doctor’s practice or pharmacy. Often it is possible to order medication by telephone or online. It can also be delivered to your home. When you go to a doctor’s practice or pharmacy, as with public spaces in general, remember to stick to the basic hygiene principles summed up by the DHM formula: Maintain a distance (at least 1.5 metres), adhere to hygiene rules (be considerate when coughing and sneezing, washing hands) and wear a non-medical face mask (community mask) where there is little room. More information can be found in the article entitled “Gut versorgt mit Arzneimitteln”(adequate medicinal product supply).

Neighbour initiatives have already started up, where you can get the help you need. An overview of initiatives is available here.

A good way to stay in contact with others and family members in particular is via regular (video) calls or the internet. If meeting with someone in person, you should stick firmly to the basic hygiene principles summed up by the DHM formula: Maintain a distance (at least 1.5 metres), adhere to hygiene rules (be considerate when coughing and sneezing, washing hands) and wear a non-medical face mask (community mask) where there is little room. The number of people who participate in a meeting should be kept as low as possible and ideally be limited to one or only a few regular contacts. The meeting’s location is also important – there is a lower risk of infection outside than in an enclosed space. Should you be unable to meet up outside, regularly open windows and ensure good circulation of air within the room. Avoid close physical contact, which involves a risk of droplet infection.

Following the decisions by the Federal Government and the Laender of 6 May 2020, people at hospitals, long-term care facilities, old-age and nursing homes and facilities for the disabled may receive visits, so long as there are no active COVID-19 cases. However, older people and people with pre-existing conditions in particular are being urged to avoid direct contact with others as far as possible. Therefore, this permission is limited to one contact person, who can return regularly. In order to keep the risk of infection as low as possible, these facilities endeavour to ensure distance is maintained or barriers are erected between residents and visitors. Going for accompanied strolls is often permitted, since the risk of infection is lower outside than in enclosed spaces. Yet here, too, you must adhere to a minimum distance of 1.5 metres from others. In addition, in many facilities there is a general obligation on both sides to wear a community mask. These safety measures can also be used as a guide by people who are thinking about organising private meetings with others. Please check the regulations in place in your region. Family members can generally stay in contact via regular (video) telephone calls or via the internet.

In general, families can visit their grandparents and other family members. During such meetings, remember to make a special effort to stick to the basic hygiene principles summed up by the DHM formula (LINK): Maintain a distance (at least 1.5 metres), adhere to hygiene rules (be considerate when coughing and sneezing, washing hands) and wear a non-medical face mask (community mask) where there is little room. The number of people who participate in a meeting should be kept as low as possible and ideally be limited to one or only a few regular contacts. Which particular rules apply in your respective region is specified on the website of your Land Government: Reduce the length of the visit and ideally plan your meetings outside, where the risk of infection is lower than in enclosed spaces. Should you be unable to meet up outside, regularly open windows and ensure good circulation of air within the room. Avoid close physical contact, which involves a risk of droplet infection. Until now, old-age and nursing homes have often followed very strict visiting rules to protect their residents. These rules have in part been eased. Please inform yourself at the respective home to find out if and under which conditions visits are possible. More information can be found in the article entitled “Darf ich meine Enkelkinder jetzt wieder treffen?” (May I now visit my grandparents again?).

Protection against fraud

Do not open your door to people you do not know, who claim to work for the public health office and offer to test you without having announced their visit in advance. Such people may be scammers. Testing only takes place after you have contacted a public health office. Do not order sanitary products or protective masks at online shops you do not already know. Do not open attachments to emails whose sender you do not know.

Always be vigilant and do not let anyone you do not know enter your flat, as there are ‘fake volunteers’ around, too. Confidence tricksters are particularly targeting older people. They will, for instance, ask for money to pay for medicines or expensive treatments. In many cases, confidence tricksters also claim to be workmen and offer to check or disinfect an apartment.

Currently, criminals are taking advantage of the uncertainty and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. They tend to call elderly people at home, pretend to be relatives who have become infected with the virus and ask for financial support to pay for treatment or to buy medication. For anyone receiving such calls, the police urgently warn against handing over money or valuables to unknown persons. Always ask callers to state the name of the grandchild (niece, etc.) themselves. Do not be tempted to guess names. If you do not recognize a caller immediately, ask them about things that only your real relative can know. Do not disclose details of your family or financial circumstances. Contact the police on 110 immediately if you suspect fraud. Here you can find further information.

Unfortunately, even in times like these, misinformation or fake news are increasingly being circulated. If you come across seemingly sensational news, please take very good notice of the source of this information and double check it. You can get reliable information e.g. from this website, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Robert Koch Institute or the competent Laender authorities. Do not share social media content until you have read or reviewed it yourself.