Older people are vulnerable to infections regardless of where they live. As you age, your immune system is not as hearty as it was when you were younger. Moreover, older people are more likely to have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a lung condition), which can make them more vulnerable during outbreaks as well.
An analysis of more than 70,000 confirmed and likely cases in China published last month in JAMA indicated that the fatality rate for confirmed cases among 70-to-79-year-olds was about 3.5 times higher than the overall fatality rate, and the rate among those 80 and up was about 6.5 times higher than the overall rate.
The majority of nursing homes—there are more than 15,000 of them in the U.S.—aren’t prepared for an epidemic.