To explore older people’s initial experience of household isolation, social distancing and shielding, and the plans they constructed to support them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public health guidance for those aged 70 or older was predominantly to undertake stringent social distancing within their household. Little is known about older people’s experience of these measures. This paper explores changes experienced by those over the age of 70 during the first two weeks of household isolation, social distancing and shielding in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and their early perceptions and plans to support them through the pandemic.
An inductive phenomenological study. University staff posted the study invitation flyer on social media, such as WhatsApp neighbourhood groups, the NextDoor App and twitter. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 19 participants and repeated at two week intervals for 10 weeks, further data collection is still in progress. This paper presents the findings from the baseline interviews, which showed older peoples’ early responses. The COREQ (COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research) Checklist was adhered to in the reporting of this study.
Three themes emerged from older people’s early experiences of social distancing: protective measures; current and future plans; and acceptance of a good life, but still a life to live.
People over 70 adapted to household isolation, social distancing and shielding, by using social media and neighbourhood resources. Nurses and other professionals can develop holistic care for older people by listening to their experiences of what works for them, helping them link to local and distant supports. Understanding the holistic life view of older people, including death anxiety, is an important element of care planning; to help older people access the protective resources they need to reduce the serious risks associated with coronavirus.

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