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One of the most notable and worrying aspects of being an older person during the lockdown may be the stark reality of being isolated. When we think about people being isolated, we typically think about isolation geographically: people being disconnected from other people across different locations. But isolation is not always best understood in terms of ‘being apart from others’. And the ethical worry about being isolated is not just about the negative consequences that isolation has on older people - the experience of loneliness or sadness, for example.

Sometimes it can be better to understand isolation in terms of ‘being prevented from doing’. This means that when older people are isolated, they are unable to live their lives in ways that we can all recognise as being valuable and worthy of protection. Understood like this, isolation is an ethical problem that societies need to address because of the ways in which it limits the activities that older adults are able to take part in and choose between.

Supporting isolated older adults during a pandemic is a social project. Members of local communities will need to respond in innovative ways to engage older people in social activities through their everyday interactions, as neighbours, volunteers, and even as strangers passing on the street. This is the route out of isolation, and the path towards a good life, for the oldest members of our communities.

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