While older adults are not a monolith, they face unique challenges and risks with respect to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Older adults, especially those with certain chronic health conditions, look to be more vulnerable.

In my Philadelphia-based nonprofit that serves adults in their retirement years, Penn’s Village in Central Philadelphia — along with East Falls Village and Northwest Village Network — we are wondering how our communities can thrive as we all confront the pending arrival of the coronavirus. We need to prepare ourselves as best we can, as we keep connected and engaged with each other.

Here are issues that might affect older adults most:

  • Health implications: Older adults and those with disabilities are often at greater risk of contracting a disease, especially if they already have chronic medical conditions. In such cases, there may be added prevention and/or treatment guidelines for these groups. But according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this is not currently the case for COVID-19.
  • Prescription renewals: In case communities have to self-quarantine, the American Red Cross and other public health sources are encouraging us to order a 30-day supply of prescriptions, and for those prescriptions not yet eligible for renewal, to note the earliest date at which they can be renewed.
  • Scams: Sadly, older adults are the group most likely to be preyed upon by scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus, such as online promotions for unproven treatments or vaccines. To avoid these scams, Carolyn Rosenblatt recommends in Forbes that you never accept an online offer for a coronavirus vaccine or click on a link from a source you do not know; don’t buy masks, medicines, or sprays purporting to protect against the coronavirus; seek sources you trust instead for information and supplies; and don’t fall for offers suggesting that you invest in securities supposed to give a breakthrough treatment or cure.

As with everyone else, we encourage older adults to follow the basic rules for hygiene promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other reliable sources. Tips include: avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home if you’re sick yourself; don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth; wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and cough or sneeze ideally into tissue, though failing that you can do so into your arm.

Symptoms of COVID-19 generally occur two to 14 days after exposure and start as a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to the common cold. Symptoms to watch for, the CDC says, are fever, fatigue, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Should you become sick with those warning signs, contact your health-care provider immediately.

At Penn’s Village and our sister organizations, we support our members to live independently in their own homes. But some of these recommendations are especially crucial for older adults who live in retirement homes where a lot of individuals share close quarters.

Penn’s Village plans to stay vigilant and supportive of our members, their friends, and their families. Right now, we are focusing on volunteer services for our members and the programs we sponsor to bring older adults together to socialize, educate, and encourage connection and engagement with neighbors. In times of stress, we rely even more than usual on these networks. We at Penn’s Village — along with our colleagues at the other villages — are here as always for our members.

Jane Eleey is the executive director of Penn’s Village. jane@pennsvillage.org