Why does coronavirus matter more if you are older?

By Marion Foreman. Published 2020-03-19
BOLD-Wellbeing
Marion discusses why it's important to understand some of the facts behind the words

We have heard a lot, in fact – we have heard a HUGE amount about coronavirus recently and rightly so. 

We know that children, who are healthy, are rarely affected and that most people who have the symptoms, recover and carry on.  We also know that older people are more susceptible to catching the virus and can be more severely affected by it.

Why is this and what we can do about it? 

If you are over 70 in the UK, you are classed as vulnerable and are being advised to self-isolate.  Many people in this age group agree and do their best to follow the advice, others dismiss this information and carry on as usual.  It’s not for TheBoldAge to tell you what to do – we have a government doing its best in extremely trying, fast moving and unprecedented times, informing and advising us. They in turn are following the very best scientific advice they have available to them.   

To help you in making your daily decisions we have pulled together a few facts which might help.  Please, do remember we are learning all the while about this disease and we as Boldies should pay attention to the latest official information and advice.

Firstly, the risk factor isn’t age per se – its largely to do with co-morbidities – that is the other diseases that are more prevalent as we get older.  Diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and chronic lung conditions. 

Prof Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) says that most of the over 65s will survive the disease and even in the most vulnerable – 90% will survive even if they are in their 80s.  So, a relatively young, fit 70-year-old should be just fine.

The issue is that as we get older our immune system weakens and therefore we are more vulnerable to infections.  Our bodies try hard to fight infections which in turn sets up an inflammatory response which can damage the organs in our body.  This can, of course, lead to organ failure if not adequately treated.

It seems that those with heart problems are most at risk – but, as yet, we don’t know why.  Diabetes depresses the immune system and makes you more vulnerable and those with preexisting lung conditions are also at risk. 

So older people do, in general, need to keep clear of people with corona-virus.  However, we don’t know who has got it and who hasn’t – so to play safe we need to avoid close contact with people. At the moment, this is all in your own hands and moral compass.  Talking of hands – please wash them, frequently and thoroughly – it really does cut down the risk of transmission and is one of the major weapons in the fight against this disease. 

  • The NHS has some good advice here
  • AgeUK have provided some comprehensive guidance to a number of frequently asked question - see the link here