How seniors lived through COVID-19

What worried seniors the most? Here’s what you told us.

Key Points

  • During the pandemic, NSA surveyed older Australians about how they were feeling across multiple areas of life 

  • Senior’s top concerns were ‘economy in general’, ‘value of investments’, ‘minimising risk of getting COVID-19’ and ‘visiting loved ones in residential aged care facilities

  • NSA COVID-19 research reports are available here

Australian seniors have demonstrated resilience in adjusting and adapting during COVID-19, despite social, health and financial vulnerabilities. 

To capture seniors’ experiences and concerns over time, we conducted a survey as the first set of restrictions eased in June and repeated the survey in late July/early August. The survey focused on peoples’ levels of concern across four areas: daily life, relationships, money and finances, and health.  

The top concerns were ‘economy in general’, ‘value of investments’, ‘minimising risk of getting COVID-19’ and ‘visiting loved ones in residential aged care facilities’. These top four concerns remained largely similar across the two survey periods.  

However, in the second survey, ‘helping parents’ replaced ‘maintaining caring role for someone’ as the fifth most concerning issue. This suggests that government responses to support carers may have had effects or that people were able to adapt to new ways of providing care over time.  

Interestingly, in the first survey ‘economic’ and ‘financial’ issues took precedence over fears of being infected with COVID-19. This changed in the second survey where minimising risk of getting COVID-19 replaced ‘value of investments’ as the second highest ranked concern. ‘Helping parents’ and ‘maintaining a caring role for someone’ also ranked highly.  

‘Technology use’, ‘accessing essential supplies’ and ‘getting back to work’ were unsurprisingly, of least concern for people across both survey periods. 

Proportions of people who were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned increased over time for most issues. 

Some concerns that dramatically increased as the pandemic went on included ‘Looking after your mental health”, which jumped 20%. This was followed by ‘helping parents’ (15.7% increase), ‘accessing essential supplies’ (14.3%), ‘visiting loved ones in residential aged care’, and ‘minimising risk of getting COVID-19’ (12% increase for both). 

Victorians did it hard

As you know, Victorians were especially hit hard during the pandemic with the most severe lockdown restrictions in the nation. As the restrictions tightened, Victorians were more concerned about ‘being with grandchildren’ and ‘getting together with family’.  

Thoughts and feelings expressed by seniors during the pandemic shine a light on how the disruption to daily activities affected social and mental wellbeing: 

"…I volunteer, I miss it… we all need to do regular activities, it's unhealthy not to… "

"Not being able to attend activities becomes quite lonely. You can talk or text family and friends but it’s not the same as having their company"

"Lockdown is the pits...I live on my own and l need to be with someone in my home. Depressing and discouraging"

"Certainly, my mental health has deteriorated over time, much more anxious and concerned. Trying to keep up walking and other exercise and contact with friends via zoom etc. Life will never be the same"

Minimising the risk of infection while still trying to spend quality time with frail family members was also challenging.

"Everything I do: risks I take impact on my role as my mother’s sole carer. I will continue to isolate as much as possible to reduce any risk for her. I am very concerned that she cannot see her sister in a residential care home due to the risk to her and/or her sister"

We would like to thank everyone for their valuable and generous responses during such a challenging time. 

You can read the full report here.