Older adults

On Friday the 27th of March, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced measures to attempt to further prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, Covid-19. As part of this announcement, he used the term “cocooning” as part of the Coronavirus advice. Basically, with the mention of cocooning, the government were outlining specific advice for those who are over 70 years of age and also people who are medically vulnerable to Covid-19 to stay indoors and isolate themselves for the good of their health and safety.

 As per the HSE: “Cocooning means you should stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact. Even within your home, you should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household.

 These past few weeks have been unnerving and unsettling for everyone in the country but especially for those who were advised to cocoon. What we need to remember though is that they are drawn up by the medical experts for our own safety and it’s so important that we continue to follow this cocooning advice.

 It is completely understandable to feel confused and unsettled throughout this period and so we have put together some advice surrounding cocooning. It’s important to know, understand and be aware that the government has put measures in place to help those cocooning to prevent isolation and loneliness but also to support them for any requirements like medication, state benefit payments and more.

Image of a Smartphone


●    News Sources

Newspapers, radio and TV shows are all of course filled with Coronavirus related topics and it’s truly difficult to avoid. It is best to try to limit and carefully curate your consumption of this type of news for a few reasons. Only consume news that is from a verifiable and reputable source. In Ireland, you can 100% trust output from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Government ministers. The HSE, in cooperation with the Government of Ireland issues daily updates on their own websites, on social media through their own official channels  and also through live briefings. These live briefings are carried on the national broadcaster RTÉ. We would recommend limiting your daily news intake about the Coronavirus to these specific sources.

If you read about the topic from other sources, you’ll find a myriad of opinion, advice, news and sometimes some of it can be “fake”. Many nuggets of information have also been passed around on online forums or via phone messaging apps (eg WhatsApp, Viber etc.) but ignore them because it’s impossible to know whether they’re reliable or misinformed. Furthermore, exposing oneself to huge volumes of Coronavirus news will inevitably lead to fear, thus increasing related anxiety levels.


●    Exercise & Vitamins

By the nature of cocooning, you’re meant to stay indoors and at most, venture to your own garden or balcony (if you have one). For many over 70s, this presents a massive change if you have been used to regular exercise including walks, gym visits and other outdoor activities like golf, tennis and so on. You should still attempt to do some light exercise (have a chat with your GP if you’re not used to exercising before trying anything). There are many easy workouts for over 70s available on YouTube and RTÉ has a show on Monday to Friday at 2:20pm called Fitness 15; it will show some exercises specifically tailored for those in the older age category. The HSE has also put together a post with some exercise advice for older people – read more here.

With the recommendation to stay indoors and to only go to your own garden / balcony, some older people might run the risk of being vitamin D deficient; this vitamin is essential for good muscles and bone health. It’s naturally produced in our bodies when we’re exposed (safely) to the sun and so by cocooning, it might be rather difficult to acquire it organically. There are ways to up your vitamin D through your food intake so look for things that are fortified with the vitamin like cereals, milk and so on. Here’s an article that outlines other sources of Vitamin D.

 Alone- Support for elderly


●    Support Systems

While many older people have family that can help them throughout cocooning, others might not be so lucky. The charity Alone, who provide assistance for older people, has established a helpline staffed by volunteers that people can call for advice, reassurance and support through this Covid-19 period. The phone number is 0818 222 024 and it’s open from Monday to Friday, from 8am-8pm. Senior Line is another organisation that provides a Freefone service every day of the year 10am-10pm, including all public holidays. You can contact Senior Line on 1800 80 45 91. If you’re worried about something related to Covid-17 (non-medical queries), it’s great to know that there is someone that you can talk to! Every county now has support in place for things as simple as grocery collection/delivery and medicine collection/delivery. See the full HSE approved list here.


What is the advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for you?

Contact regular visitors to your home, such as friends and family to let them know that you are cocooning and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or feeding.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, inform your care providers that you are cocooning and agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members,speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe. Speak to your carers about backup plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate.


●    Social Welfare Payments

Most weekly social welfare payments are now being paid every 2 weeks. If you can’t collect your social welfare payment personally at your post office, you can nominate a person (Temporary Agent) to collect the payment on your behalf. More information about social welfare payment arrangements are available here on the Citizens Information website.


●    Medication & Prescriptions

Temporary changes due to the pandemic have been made to the system related to medication and prescriptions:


  •  A paper copy of your prescription is now not required – phone your GP and they’ll send your prescription to your pharmacist.


  •  Some prescriptions will be valid for 9 months instead of 6 months – phone your GP for more information.


  •  Repeat prescriptions are possible without a new script – phone your usual pharmacist to discuss.


These are just some bits of advice that we hope will help during the cocooning phase. We hope everyone is taking good care of themselves and staying safe. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it!