Among the hardest hit demographics of the coronavirus have been the elderly, especially those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health problems.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease are at especially high risk of contracting more severe cases of coronavirus.

That’s because older people’s immune systems change, making it harder for their bodies to fight diseases and infection. Older people are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to fight and recover from illness. Because the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, age increases the risk that a person’s respiratory system or lungs will shut down from the disease.

The Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging has a list of recommendations for people who are at higher risk for coronavirus, including:

Stay at home as much as possible

Make sure you have several weeks of medication, food and other supplies you might need if you have to stay home for a longer period of time

If you have to go out among other people, keep away from others who might be sick and limiting close contact

Wash your hands often, both at home and when you’re out in public

Avoid crowds wherever possible.

If you have a serious chronic condition, consider putting those travel plans on hold. This is true for anyone with health issues but especially for those who are elderly.

If you are caring for a loved one who is elderly, or if you want to help an elderly neighbor or friend, you can also do these things to protect them, according to the federal CDC:

Help them acquire extra medication in case they have to stay home.

Monitor their food and medical supplies (including oxygen, incontinence supplies, dialysis or wound care) and think about a backup plan to ensure they have enough – and can get more if needed.

Stock up on non-perishable food to have on hand to keep trips to the grocery store to a minimum. While health experts say stockpiling like a doomsday prepper is unnecessary, it’s always good to have a few days’ worth of extra food just in case.

If your loved one is in a care facility, keep a close eye on it and ask about the health of other residents, and the protocol if there is an outbreak of the virus there.

And last but not least, watch out for scams, especially those geared toward the elderly, who may be more susceptible to sophisticated scam efforts – and may be more at risk with heightened fears around the coronavirus.

The Federal Trade Commission says this means watching for emails claiming to be from official agencies like the CDC saying they have vaccines or pills, poultices, potions, unguents, lotions or anything that says it’ll treat or protect against the coronavirus. And if you are inclined to donate to a nonprofit fighting the virus, run that name through a charity rating service like Charity Navigator.

Have more questions about how to protect yourself or your loved ones from coronavirus? Send them to [email protected] and we’ll try to answer them.

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