As we grow older, our immune system begins to age as well as our bodies in general, which makes it harder to fight off virus' and infections. With chronic illnesses already increasing the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, adding age into the picture means elderly people are at higher risk than those younger with stronger immune systems. Our bodies create an immunity memory to be able to fight off infections but for older adults the initial immune response is less robust as the memory is a lot weaker due to ageing. As our immune systems age, they decline to a state of ‘immunosenescence’ which means that they lose the ability to protect against infections.
Unfortunately, vaccines become less effective in older individuals because of this ageing process, which leaves them particularly vulnerable. It was discovered that COVID kills an estimated 13.4% of patients 80 and older, compared to 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s. The elderly suffer with many more conditions that include heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer and more. This means their body is already working so hard to keep healthy whilst dealing with a condition, so any virus poses a threat. The best thing we can do is help to keep the elderly safe and out of harms way by practising social distancing and taking care when handling items or objects they will come into contact with.