Why Are Senior Citizens At a Greater Risk of Coronavirus

Coronavirus has become the biggest nightmare for people across the world. Media, whether offline or online, has been filling us about the ill-effects it is causing to people along with the rising death tolls in countries like Iran, Italy, China, and a few others.

The virus causes respiratory diseases ranging from a common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Amidst all the chaos in other countries, the good news is that China is recovering – giving other countries like India, a relief that the virus can stop spreading if the necessary steps are taken.

Situation in India

Image Source: Deccan Herald

Several rapid measures have been taken to contain this disease. As you might’ve noticed, in our country, apart from medical stores nothing else is open – educational institutes such as schools and colleges, corporate firms, stores, malls, etc. have been asked to shut down.

Image Source: Hindustan Times

A few cities like Mumbai and Pune have also imposed a transportation ban on local trains, and cab services like Ola and Uber. The Indian railways have also shut down passenger trains till 31st March 2020.

India also observed a ‘Janta Curfew,’ which was a complete nationwide shutdown from 7 am to 9 pm on 22nd March 2020, to check the spread of the coronavirus. It is anticipated that this kind of isolation will help in the containment of the devil called Corona.

Who is at a Major Risk?

On 4th March 2020, COVID-19 reports from Italy, a country with one of the world’s oldest populations, showed that out of the 105 patients that died of the disease, the average age was 81 years. According to the national health institute, this put a 20-year gap between the average age of people who tested positive for the virus and those who succumbed to it.

In China, out of the first 72,314 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the estimated case fatality rate for January-February was 4.6% for people aged 60-69 years, 9.8% for 70-79 years, and 18% for 80+ years.


In South Korea, the death rate among people aged 30-49 years was around 0.1% as of 11th March 2020. Whereas for people aged 80+ years it was 7.2%, 4.3% for people in the age group of 70-79 years, 1.5% for 60-69 years, and 0.4% for 50-59 years.

All of these reports indicate that adults nearing their golden years and senior citizens are at a higher risk of getting this infectious disease.

But Why Seniors?

Age brings in several health complications along with reduced resistance to pathogens. Moreover, immunity tends to decline with age, making seniors more susceptible to severe illnesses like Corona.

This is due to the fact that the infection-fighting cells, otherwise known as WBC (white blood cells) reduce with age. The cells also lose their power of identifying pathogens – making it easier for viruses like corona to cause more damage.

Chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes can also reduce the bodies’ effectiveness in naturally responding to the virus and leave them more vulnerable to infections. In a World Health Organization report on China’s outbreak, the case fatality rate in people who reported no chronic diseases was 1.4%. In contrast, it was 13.2% for those with cardiovascular disease, 9.2% for diabetes, 8.4% for hypertension, 8.0% for chronic respiratory disease, and 7.6% for cancer.

Reports also show that around 80% of people who are infected have a mild or moderate illness, approximately 15% have severe diseases that require hospitalization, and about 5% are critical (and go into respiratory or organ failure).

Takeaway: The older we get, the higher are the chances of being prone to chronic health conditions. As our immune system weakens with age, it becomes difficult for our bodies to counter infections and diseases. An important point to note is that age is not the only factor; it is older with one or more chronic health conditions that put people at the risk of COVID-19.

This doesn’t mean that this virus won’t harm others – it’s likely to affect those with lower immunity more – making children fall second after seniors.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Dry cough

Some may also experience

  • Aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion, or shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea

The emergency warning signs for COVID-19 are:

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Difficulty breathing

In case a person shows any of these emergency signs, he or she needs to seek immediate medical attention.

Seniors need to understand the symptoms and follow the preventive measures to stay healthy in this pandemic.

Stay Updated through Reliable Sources

Source: WHO

With a pandemic around the world, it is not unusual for false messages to be circulated. Do not believe everything you read or hear from unverified sources, and do not forward any misinformation without cross-checking it first. Some verified sources are:

By taking the necessary preventive and hygienic measures, you can protect yourself from COVID-19. Recovery is possible through proper healthcare. Out of the 2,46,881 reported cases of COVID-19, 88,510 people have fully recovered. This is a sign of hope. So, do not panic and stay safe and healthy.

Also Read: Why is Social Distancing Necessary During the Times of Coronavirus