The COVID-19 rehabilitation pandemic

Age Ageing. 2020 Aug 24;49(5):696-700. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afaa118.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the response to the pandemic are combining to produce a tidal wave of need for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation will be needed for survivors of COVID-19, many of whom are older, with underlying health problems. In addition, rehabilitation will be needed for those who have become deconditioned as a result of movement restrictions, social isolation, and inability to access healthcare for pre-existing or new non-COVID-19 illnesses. Delivering rehabilitation in the same way as before the pandemic will not be practical, nor will this approach meet the likely scale of need for rehabilitation. This commentary reviews the likely rehabilitation needs of older people both with and without COVID-19 and discusses how strategies to deliver effective rehabilitation at scale can be designed and implemented in a world living with COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; older people; organisational delivery; rehabilitation; service design.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Chronic Disease* / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease* / rehabilitation
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / physiopathology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / psychology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / rehabilitation
  • Delivery of Health Care* / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care* / trends
  • Forecasting
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Pandemics*
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / physiopathology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / psychology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / rehabilitation
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rehabilitation* / methods
  • Rehabilitation* / organization & administration
  • Rehabilitation* / trends
  • SARS-CoV-2