Support offers for elderly flood in to stop COVID-19 spreading through retirement homes

With so many elderly in isolation, offers of support are flooding in in a bid to stop COVID-19 running rampant through retirement villages.

Many aged care providers are putting stringent screening measures in place for retirement villages - or even locking visitors out.

The threat to the elderly is why Kiwi families may have to visit their loved ones either through a glass window or not at all.

"The risk we run, of course, is that the infection gets into a village and that has a very serious impact on our residents," Retirement Villages Association's John Collyns says.

Roughly 500,000 New Zealanders are aged over 70, and it's that population that faces the greatest risk of death if they contract COVID-19.

Aged care provider Radius Care has closed 22 of its facilities to visitors. Ryman Healthcare, which has more than 11,000 residents, has told family and friends not to come unless absolutely essential. And Metlifecare has cancelled all open days and is asking external groups not to visit.

But help is at hand, with hundreds of people volunteering to help those in isolation feel not so alone.

Age Concern CEO Stephanie Clare told Newshub they've had many people reach out to help them.

"We've had calls to the offices, we've had requests on Facebook and we've had Twitter requests going crazy. I think people out there want to give a hand, want to help out."

Wellington mum and volunteer Sarah Stevens says even a phone call can make a world of difference. 

"People then maybe don't have to focus so much on the stress and the panic that is around us all the time."

The enduring message is to keep connected - you're not alone.