People ages 65 and older are more prone to contracting severe illnesses, especially diseases that are new to the population, such as COVID-19. With the uncertainty that surrounds such a new development in the medical landscape, it’s important that those most vulnerable are taking every precaution to stay physically healthy, while also protecting their mental health.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 31-59 percent of adults between ages 65 and 84, and 31-70 percent of adults 85 years old and older, have required hospitalization for COVID-19. These statistics suggest that it’s more important than ever for older adults to take the utmost care when it comes to staying healthy.

If you or a loved one falls into this high-risk group, consider taking these 5 practical steps to reduce the likelihood of contracting it and remaining mentally well:

1. Practice good hygiene.

The first practical way to reduce your risk for COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food, using the restroom, touching surfaces, and going out in public.

In addition to staying physically healthy, make sure you are doing everything you can to stay mentally healthy during these conditions as well. Combat feelings of fear, withdrawal and despair with activities that promote creativity and fufillment. Try to take a break from watching the news and try to maintain a daily routine to help anchor yourself in hope and contentment.

2. Make sure you’re covered.

Another preventative step you can take to avoid getting the coronavirus is checking with your health insurance provider to make sure you are covered for any tests, medications or hospital stays you may need. Your provider will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding your Medicare coverage and whether it includes coronavirus treatment.

Also, don’t be afraid to contact your health care provider or a mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed by your circumstances. If stress is disrupting your daily activities, it may be time to reach out.

3. Practice social distancing.

Many countries, including the United States, have implemented “social distancing” as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. You should remain 6 feet away from others at all times and avoid going to public places where groups tend to gather.

This is one of the most important steps we can take as a society to be responsible and prevent spreading this disease to those whose immune systems are not strong enough to fight it off. If you are staying in a care facility and are expecting visitors, you may have to reschedule or find an alternative way of visiting, for the sake of everyone’s health.

4. Stay connected.

Even though it’s important to socially distance ourselves from others who could be carrying the disease, it’s not natural for people to live a disconnected life. If you feel lonely while social distancing, find creative ways to stay connected with your loved ones.

Video conferencing is a great tool to use when you need to connect with others face-to-face. You can enjoy a cup of coffee together, have dinner while chatting, or even use this time to catch up with an old friend or two. You can also expand your social circles during this time – talk to your neighbors while you’re getting the mail or sitting outside your home, or visit with the staff if you’re staying at a care facility. 

5. Take advantage of Senior shopping hours.

More and more retailers around the nation are doing their part to help some of the most at-risk populations during the current coronavirus pandemic. Just this week, national discount retailers such as Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes announced that they will make shopping easier, safer and help ensure that items will be available to them. 

They, along with other stores, are offering designated store hours exclusively for seniors and at-risk individuals. Since Target’s announcement on March 18th, a number of national retailers have adopted Senior hours as well.

COVID-19 is a very real—and very frightening—part of the world we live in today. Fortunately, with the right preparation and safety precautions, we can better ensure that people, especially those most vulnerable stay physically and mentally healthy.

*James Donaldson is a health and wellness writer, avid traveler, and scuba diver. He studied health sciences at the University of Memphis and has since dedicated his work to helping others live long, healthy lives. When he is not traveling or writing, he spends most of his time at home with his dogs, Scout and Bear.