Please see below the questions and comments received during the webinar and their respective answers. We invite you all to send your comments and let us know if you have any further questions on the topic. 

Q1 (Sahra Mohamed) What about the very low-income countries that do not have pensions in their older people?

Florian Juergens: First of all, it should be noted that a basic social pension is affordable even in low-income countries. Check out Pension Watch – HelpAge’s global database on social protection in older age - for an overview of social pensions around the world. You will see that there are a significant number of low-income countries that have implemented social pensions, thus guaranteeing at least basic income security to many, most or all older people. I would argue that the introduction of a basic social pension is the most meaningful step countries can take to ensure the income security, dignity, and wellbeing of their older citizens. Where pension systems cover all or most older people, a quick and effective way to ensure older people’s income security during this crisis would be to ensure that older people can safely access their pension. Where the pension amounts are too low to live on, governments should increase the transfer levels to enable older people to meet at least their basic needs. In countries that have a social pension that provides only limited coverage, Governments should explore whether more older people can be included. For instance, in Sri Lanka, the Government was able to quickly enrol all older people that were on the waiting list of the country’s social pension. Another example is the announcement of the Government of Bangladesh to make country’s Old Age Allowance universal in the 100 poorest sub-districts. Where this is not feasible, it will be all them ore crucial to ensure that older people are included in mainstream humanitarian or social protection assistance. This includes ensuring that older people are informed about the assistance provided and can safely access the support they need.


Q2 (Evelyn Avalos) Hello Florian, I am PhD researcher focused on the impact of forced displacement on older refugees in Uganda. I am very interested in understanding how this pandemic will affect older refugees living in one of the poorest regions in the world, and how social protection mechanisms could cover non-nationals (refugees). I would appreciate your thoughts on that.

Florian Juergens: The health and safety of older refugees during this crisis should be major concern for all of us, given the significant limitations of following physical distancing and hygiene guidance in many camps and informal settlements, and older people’s heightened vulnerability to the virus. It is therefore very concerning that the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 fails to prioritise older people, despite highest risk of death. Check out HelpAge’s guidance on older people and COVID-19 in informal settlements, which, while not specifically written for refugee camps, should still be relevant and outline key actions to consider. In addition to ensuring access to hygiene measures, healthcare, and appropriate humanitarian support, Uganda’s Senior Citizens Grant (SCG), which is in the process of becoming universal, could be extended to include older refugees, thereby ensuring their income security in this crisis.


Q3 (Patricia Velloso Cavallari) In many LIC, older people must physically go to banks, counters, etc to get their benefits. How to facilitate the benefit delivery in such compromised contexts in times of COVID, avoiding putting them at risk of contamination?

This question was addressed by Gabrielle Kelly in her presentation. Watch here! Please also see our comprehensive guidelines here and here, and please also see our messages for older people on how to protect themselves here.


Q4 (Charles Ngeh Ntam) Let’s look beyond putting cash into the pockets of these vulnerable do they get food on their table without interacting with the wider public? In cases where they don't have care takers and social workers...?

Florian Juergens: In contexts where older people are unable to go to markets or do their own shopping, either due to ill-health or to avoid being exposed to the virus, community or mutual aid groups are crucial to support older people, including making sure that they can meet their needs. Check out HelpAge’s guidance and advice for communities and older people's associations during COVID-19.


Q5 (Sahra Mohamed) As you know old people are at greatest risk of catching COVID-19, and in our country let other equipment’s there is no PPE to help, so in that situation what can we do?

Gabby Kelly: In the absence of PPE, ensuring that people adhere to social distancing and hand washing at pension payments is the best option. Assisting older people to avoid pension payment points by having someone collect their pension on their behalf would also be helpful. Please read our guidelines on this topic here.


Q6 (Patricia Velloso Cavallari) Are there any policies in place directed to older people caretakers (in the context of COVID-19)?

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock: No new policies that I am aware of – either for older people who care for others or for younger adults that care for older people. World Health Organisation (WHO) is developing some guidance, but this has not been published yet. Some countries or local governments may have introduced some new schemes that I am not aware of. Keep an eye on this site


Q7 (Caitlin Littleton) What social protection and health and care measures are occurring in the world (or should be) in light of COVID-19? E.g. waiving fees for tests and treatment of COVID-19, expansions of social health insurance, additional benefits for those with care needs and/or disability to support household efforts for social isolation? etc. Where are older people being left out in social protection efforts for COVID-19? E.g. upper age limits for benefits? or unemployment? or other issues?

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock: No new policies that I am aware of. Some countries or local governments may have introduced some new schemes that I am not aware of. Keep an eye on this site

Florian Juergens: For a good overview of social protection responses to COVID-19, check out this ‘live’ mapping of global social protection responses to COVID-19. This mapping includes the entire spectrum of social protection measures, including health care and disability support. On the basis of this and other sources, HelpAge has put together another ‘live’ document of governments’ responding to COVID-19 with new and improved pensions and cash transfers to older people.


Q8 (Evelyn Avalos) Could you please explain the intersection between humanitarian aid and social protection?

We invite you to join the webinar ‘Lessons learned and Opportunities: Linking social protection systems to humanitarian cash in a pandemic’, next Thursday at 8 AM EDT/GMT-4. This is certainly a topic the panellists will address.


Q9 (Wouter Van Ginneken) This is a general question to all the presenters. Would it be beneficial to target (extra) cash transfers to people (including older people) who actually are suffering from COVID-19?

Florian Juergens: In addition to ensuring free access to appropriate healthcare for those that have contracted COVID-19, it is indeed good to think about what additional support could be provided to protect their health, livelihoods, and standards of living. Mainly, I think, the nature of this additional support will depend on a country’s health system and a person’s income generating activities. In countries where seeking healthcare requires substantive out of pocket payments, having a dedicated cash transfer for those having contracted the virus might make sense. Paid sick leave and unemployment insurance are crucial but mainly limited to those in formal employment. Where those are not possible, dedicated cash transfers might ensure that standards of living are maintained during this time of crisis.


Q10 (Usa Khiewrord) Gabby Kelly, you did not mention wearing masks at pay points. I understand that WHO does not advice for healthy people (mainly due to shortage) but as older people are most at risk, should they be prioritised and advised to wear masks where available. I many Asian countries, people are advised by governments to wear masks if need to go out.

Gabby Kelly: The wearing of masks is much debated and unless N95 masks are worn, masks are often more likely to protect others around you than the wearer. Given that many people are infectious before showing symptoms or are asymptomatic, wearing home-made cloth masks or surgical masks could be encouraged as good practice at pension pay-points to limit the spread of infection within this at-risk population. Older people could also be encouraged to wear home-made masks at all times and be given priority access to other masks if they are available.


Q11 (Monica Kinyanjui) What do we do for older person not being isolated in the pretext of social distancing and especially for us in low-income countries where there is no access technology and there would be no way of communicating to those in a rural area?

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock: World Health Organisation (WHO) is developing some guidance, but this has not been published yet. Try to encourage the use of home-made masks, washing and hygiene. Try to manage physical distancing. Even if you cannot manage the 2-meter guidance, anything is better than nothing, even if it does not meet recommended standards of protection


Q12 (Daniela Chavez) Are there some individual initiatives to do something for the older people more vulnerable?

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock: No new policies that I am aware of. Some countries or local governments may have introduced some new schemes that I am not aware of. Keep an eye on this site


Q13 (Maria Aman) Is there a country breakdown for what countries have implemented what new social protection systems amidst the crisis?

Florian Juergens: Check out this ‘live’ mapping of global social protection responses to COVID-19.


Q14 (Usa Khiewrord) Poor people living in slum areas, particularly older people/PWDs can't follow important advice -social distancing, washing hand etc due to their living and economic conditions but they often are not able to access assistance. Any advice on this?

Gabby Kelly: Containing the spread of COVID-19 within informal settlements is a significant challenge and requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders to provide resources such as water to these communities. Given the impossibility of self-isolation at home for vulnerable populations such as older people, efforts should be made to house them in schools, hotels, and other spaces. Conditions in these spaces would need to be carefully managed and appropriate healthcare, nutrition and sanitation would need to be available to those housed in these locations. Please see the resources below for some more detailed advice here and here.