COVID-19 is still here and seniors are at greater risk of seeing their condition worsen if they get the virus. This can raise concerns about activities they do on a daily basis and lead them to wonder about the risk associated with the different activities they usually do.

Measures have been put in place to protect seniors from COVID-19. However, they have led to lifestyle changes. This has an impact on the level of physical activity and social contact. In seniors, decreased physical activity and social isolation can quickly lead to deconditioning. However, deconditioning can be prevented by carrying out actions every day to maintain good physical health (exercises, nutrition) and mental health (break the isolation, stimulate the memory). Vaccination is another way seniors can protect themselves, since it reduces the risk of COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths among people who are most at risk and helps alleviate symptoms if the disease is contracted.

Risk factors

Seniors must continue to protect themselves by following the basic health instructions and assessing the risks associated with certain everyday activities. To do this, it is important to know how the virus is transmitted and to consider the following risk factors:

  • the number of people interacting
    The higher the number of people interacting, the higher the risk of being in contact with an infected person. In particular, it is harder to maintain a distance of 2 metres in a crowded place, which increases the risk.
  • the degree of proximity between people
    Droplets expelled when a sick person speaks, coughs or sneezes can be projected over a distance of 2 metres. This means the virus is transmitted mainly through close contact, within 2 metres (about 6 feet). So proximity between two people increases the risk of contamination.
  • the duration of proximity between people
    Proximity to an infected person for more than 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period increases the risk.
  • where the activity takes place (indoors or outdoors)
    The risk is higher indoors, especially in a confined space that is inadequately ventilated with a high occupancy density and if the exposure time is prolonged.
  • the type of activity
    Since transmission of the virus occurs mainly via respiratory droplets expelled into the air, activities involving the voice or strong breaths (singing, shouting, training) increase the risk.
  • sharing items
    Transmission from contaminated surfaces or items is possible, but is not the main mode of transmission. However, the virus can survive for a few hours to several days on surfaces.
  • the level of community transmission
    A high number of cases in a region puts you at greater risk. Consult the alert levels map to find out the measures that apply depending on the situation in your municipality or region. A high alert level is a good indicator that the risk in your community is higher.

The risk is even higher when several factors are combined. The Going out: Personal and social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic This hyperlink will open in a new window. page on the Government of Canada website lists a series of questions to assess whether the activity you want to do exposes you to a low or high level of risk.

Even if the risk is low, you must always take into account the measures in force in your municipality or region before doing your activities.

Examples of activities and the associated risk

Risque faible

  • Walking outdoors with a loved one while following the health measures

    This activity is lower risk because it:

    • is done outdoors,
    • limits interaction to one person,
    • maximizes physical distancing of 2 metres, otherwise a mask must be worn.

High risk

  • Playing cards with friends in your home.

    This activity is higher risk because it:

    • is done indoors,
    • may last a long time (more than 15 minutes),
    • does not allow physical distancing of 2 metres to be respected,
    • involves sharing items,
    • involves interaction with several people and the use of their voice for conversations.

Possible solutions

If activities are considered too risky, there are a number of solutions, such as:

  • online shopping;
  • delivery of certain essential goods, such as groceries and medication. In the case of grocery stores and pharmacies, delivery is generally offered directly by the store. For restaurants, specialized delivery companies may also be used;
  • help from a family member or loved one;
  • the use of various government programs and services for seniors, including home help services;
  • the use of virtual activities. These virtual events can be social, spiritual, physical, educational, musical, etc.