Coronavirus and older people: some encouraging stats


Author: Carl Knightly

Older people are showing resilience in difficult times. We know this personally, but it is often hidden in what can seem like a tide of bad news. Sometimes the figures are worth looking at more closely for the nuggets of encouragement.


The Office for National Statistics released new figures on 3 July using a study of 9081 care homes. Although there have been more than 66,000 deaths of care home residents from the start of the pandemic until 12 June, and a third of these involved Covid19, nevertheless half of the care homes surveyed did not report any cases. The ones that do are more likely to use bank or agency staff. More good news is that there has been a slowdown in care home Covid19, and other deaths, in care home residents since mid April.


Possibly contrary to public perception, only 43% of those advised to shield are over 70. Many are younger. Nearly half of them by mid June said they hadn’t left their home since being advised to shield.


The most common types of support they received were video or telephone calls, prescription deliveries and food deliveries. We know that churches were responsible for many of these.


Older people are just as likely to exercise as young people, and are also spending more time gardening and doing DIY – around 40 minutes a day on average (ONS).

The biggest concerns have been making plans, travel and well being (ONS).


Compared to younger people, those in their 60s and 70s are:

  • more likely to have checked regularly on neighbours who might need help
  • most likely to say they expect the financial situation of their household to stay the same over the next 12 months
  • the least optimistic about how long it will take for life to return to normal (ONS)


Older people far more likely than younger adults to say they have handled lockdown well: a huge 41% of those aged 65+ would say this, compared to just 21% of 18-24 year olds. (YouGov)


The conclusion of Sarah Crofts, the Head of Ageing in the Office for National Statistics Centre for Ageing and Demography, is this:

“Older people are experiencing some aspects of the lockdown situation differently from younger people, worrying less about finances but worrying more about access to essentials. Keeping in touch with friends and family remotely and doing activities such as gardening and reading are helping them cope. They are more likely to be looking out for their neighbours and feel supported by their local communities.”.


A final word from the new excellent book ‘Finishing Well’ by Ian Knox, commissioned by Faith in Later Life and published by SPCK:


“Around is great sorrow and heartache; we are to demonstrate the Spirit’s joy. I don’t mean we should be forever grinning, although a gentle smile can lift a dropping heart. But we have God’s help in our lives and have a way of coping in the sorrows that everyone faces…. With our partners and family and friends we exercise [the fruits of the Spirit] ‘faithfulness’ and in all our dealings there will be ‘gentleness and self control’. An impossible dream? No, says the psalmist, ‘They will still bear fruit in old age’. The verb ‘will’ is a strong word.”


To read more to encourage you, read a free taster of ‘Finishing Well’ here; and buy a full copy of ‘Finishing Well’ here.