The impact of social distancing and isolation on the elderly during COVID-19

With coronavirus changing the way we live and work, Professor Joanne Brooke and Dr Maria Clark are researching the effects of social isolation on the elderly. The research will be used to develop guidelines for the over 70s on how to cope with social distancing and isolation, as well as providing guidance to friends, families and social care professionals on how to support vulnerable populations during this time.

Covid-19 and the elderly research


Research background

On the 20th March 2020, the UK current government-issued advice for people 70 and over, regardless of underlying medical conditions to stringently follow social distancing measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Though the pandemic affects those of all ages, the mortality rate increases dramatically for the elderly population, rising from 3.6% for those in their 60s to 14.8% for ages 80 and above.

Social isolation presents many challenges for the elderly. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone and the usual strategies to overcome loneliness are prohibited by social distancing measures. In addition, the pandemic has spurred openly ageist social media discourse, which has positioned the elderly as expendable in the fight against coronavirus, further contributing to the feeling of isolation in the elderly.

This study aims to explore the lived experience of people over the age of 70 during the COVID-19 outbreak, and o measure their coping strategies while adhering to social distancing and isolation guidelines.

Research aims

This study aims to record and analyse the lived experience of over 70s during the COVID-19 pandemic to gain an understanding of:

  • The lived experiences of people over 70 of social distancing and social isolation
  • Coping strategies applied by those over 70 during to social distancing and social isolation
  • The needs both met and unmet of those over 70 during to social distancing and social isolation

Research methods

In line with government guidelines, data collection will occur remotely through telephone interviews the responses of which will be recorded, analysed and reviewed for common trends to inform guidance aimed at families and social care professionals.

Projected outcomes

Using the results from this study, the researchers intend to provide recommendations of how people over the age of 70 can support themselves through social distancing and social isolation. A key element of this research will also be to involve support networks by developing guidelines for families, friends and health and social care professionals to support and meet the needs of people over the age of 70 through social distancing and social isolation.