The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on older people

Building the evidence to prevent violence against older people.
Commissioned by Respect Victoria 
Conducted by Gender and Disaster Pod and the National Ageing Research Institute
Date February 2021


This action research aimed to gain an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on older people in Victoria, with a focus on investigating ageism and elder abuse.

The research was carried out between June and August 2020, during initial coronavirus restrictions in Victoria. Researchers interviewed a group of older people aged over 65, focusing on broad questions to inform the primary prevention of elder abuse in disasters. The report was designed to both inform the primary prevention sector and the emergency sector to ensure preparedness for future disasters.

Key findings

The report found that during 2020: 

  • Older people experienced increased ageism, social isolation, and a number of other factors that are considered drivers or risk factors for elder abuse.  
  • Ageism was present in the media, as well as public and political discourse during the height of the pandemic. The value of older people’s lives was discussed in relation to the economy and older people experienced deaths at a disproportionate rate, particularly in aged care settings.  
  • Risk factors increased for both older people and caregivers, including financial hardship, anxiety, stress and decreased access to health care and exercise. 
  • Older people who hold intersecting identities – for example, women or those from migrant and refugee communities – also faced disproportionate impacts.

Read the report