The COVID-19 Rehabilitation Pandemic

Sarah De Biase; Laura Cook; Dawn A. Skelton; Miles Witham; Ruth ten Hove


Age Ageing. 2020;49(5):696-700. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


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.


The process of rehabilitation is focussed on helping people who have suffered an impairment to maximise functional ability, psychological wellbeing, and social integration.[1] Rehabilitation is central to maximising recovery for older people after acute illness and to maintaining function for older people with chronic disease. The COVID-19 pandemic, both directly and as a consequence of social isolation, movement restriction and healthcare system disruption, threatens to generate a huge increase in the need for rehabilitation for older people. This commentary reviews the likely impact of the COVID pandemic and discusses how best to deliver robust rehabilitation strategies to manage this demand.