Thousands of older people may have placed themselves into total self-isolation “unnecessarily” during the coronavirus lockdown, a charity has said.
People in the UK who are deemed to be “extremely clinically vulnerable” have been advised to stay at home completely for 12 weeks until at least 30 June.
The official guidance for those aged 70 or over is to stay at home “as much as possible” and “take particular care” in social distancing.
The chief executive of the elderly care charity Independent Age said there are “real concerns” after a poll revealed 43% of over-65s wrongly believed that the government’s advice is for all over-70s, without any underlying health conditions, not to leave the house.
Only those with certain conditions, such as those with specific cancers, have been advised to stay at home at all times.
According to the Independent Age poll, 30% of those polled were able to identify the correct guidance for over-70s without underlying health conditions.
28% of all those questioned said they found the guidance for over-70s unclear or very unclear.
Chief executive Deborah Alsina said many pensioners are not regular internet users and current safety broadcast adverts are aimed at the general public.
She said “Given the results of this polling, we have very real concerns that many people aged over 70 have self-isolated unnecessarily during the lockdown, instead of being able to, with caution, leave the house for essentials and exercise.
“People of all ages in our community are doing their very best to follow the advice of government – but when language like ‘take particular care’ is used without any context or practical examples, it makes that effort extremely difficult.”
The charity says it would like to see messages and broadcast adverts which are specifically aimed at clinically vulnerable groups, including healthy over-70s, when there is any easing of the lockdown measures.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson announced that small social gatherings will be permitted outside in England from Monday, as long as people from separate households remain at a distance of two metres.
There was no easing the measures for the more than one million people who are “shielding” by staying at home .
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said that infection levels may soon be low enough for this group to leave home.
“We will get to a stage, we hope relatively soon, where the absolute risk of people has gone down to a low enough level it will be possible in stages for people to leave shielding,” he said.