Addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

In preparing this action plan, more than 5,000 older Victorians took part in a 2019 survey. One thousand older people got involved in in-person consultations with the Commissioner for Senior Victorians in 2021. This lived experience and these voices informed the action plan.

The latter research focused on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several positive outcomes were reported. These included that older people:

  • became more visible
  • were more were motivated to get online to keep in touch with families
  • found neighbours and strangers more friendly and supportive.

On the other hand, those who were already lonely and those in aged care had their loneliness magnified. Many older people reported declines in physical and mental health. Many spoke of uncertainty about the future and being unable to make plans.

Some viewed government messaging and media coverage on the pandemic as ageist and reinforcing ageist stereotypes. Ageist attitudes that cast older people as out of touch, forgetful or worthless worsened during the pandemic. Some media commentary framed the COVID-19 response as a ‘health vs the economy’ debate. This positioned the wellbeing of older people as secondary to the needs of the economy.

Even now, with a highly vaccinated population, many older people are wary of contracting COVID-19. Because they have a higher risk of serious illness and death, they are limiting activities such as exercise, social engagements and gatherings in groups. Some are delaying medical attention.

COVID-19 has heightened many issues that the Commissioner identified as barriers to ageing well, particularly:

  • loneliness and isolation
  • ageist attitudes
  • difficulty accessing services, particularly online services.