Aid to the Aged
Improving the Lives of the Elderly
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In today's fast-paced, accelerating world, where we are constantly emphasizing the new, the upgraded, discarding and replacing objects, one group of people who are often overlooked is the elderly. Despite the crucial role that the elderly play in society, they continue to be one of the most abused, mistreated, overshadowed groups worldwide. In the United States alone, every year 2 million elderly are injured, exploited or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care or protection.
The United Nations estimates that by 2025 the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double from what it was in 1995, from 542 million to about 1.2 billion. In many developed countries with low fertility rates, more people will be leaving the workforce than entering it, which could cripple economies. Because of the rapidly aging population worldwide, governments must craft policies to address care, protection and integration of the unprecedented number of elderly.
The Elderly in Palestine
The elderly make up 4.4 percent of the total Palestinian population in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The immediate family is the sole provider of the elderly, as Palestinian laws and legislation offer no provisions for older adults in terms of rights, benefits, pensions, subsidies or allowances. The Palestinian Ministry of Social Welfare provides in-kind humanitarian assistance and meager financial support for serious social cases (US$90 every three months) but has no effective social welfare system geared toward the more disadvantaged populations of Palestine, particularly the poor and disabled elderly.
The elderly are not a priority to Palestinian or international aid agencies operating in the West Bank and Gaza. Only a handful of Palestinian civil society agencies, primarily faith-based organizations, have special programs for the elderly, but these organizations lack financial resources and professional services. They are often forced to reduce their services or phase them out completely. The majority of the Palestinian elderly without children to take care of them fall into the severe poverty bracket and depend on charity.
Aid to the Aged Services
With the support of United Methodist Women, some of the most vulnerable elderly living in places with the most protracted violence and human rights violations are receiving help. Aid to the Aged (ATTA) is a Palestinian nonprofit organization established in 1990 to improve the health, living conditions and service infrastructure of the vulnerable elderly living in the occupied Palestinian territories. It provides adequate, appropriate and holistic health and home care to the Palestinian elderly. ATTA's approach incorporates the physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the vulnerable.
For the past six years, with the support of United Methodist Women, ATTA has helped the elderly by providing medication, medical outreach, health care, rehabilitation, comprehensive community services, companionship, assistance with house chores, meals on wheels, food stipends, human and institutional development, community awareness and recreational programs . ATTA has also established elderly day care centers in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and has helped more than 1,500 elderly men and women in the past 10 years.
ATTA is also the leading Palestinian organization in training youth to serve the elderly. It has conducted several short and intensive training courses, held workshops and implemented many awareness-training activities. It also published the first gerontology periodical, called Ajdad (Generations), and established the country's first convalescent center, north of Jerusalem. It is a pioneer in providing meals on wheels, home outreach and home nursing. ATTA has conducted two training courses in geriatric nursing and gerontology for young men and women, and is preparing to employ them for short-term service in its community outreach health and social care programs.
In 2012, with the support of United Methodist Women, ATTA addressed the needs of more than 300 Palestinian elderly in the central region of the West Bank, targeting those without family or support in the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Ramallah and Taybeh. ATTA provided the following services:
- Thirty-one women received health and social care, medication, hot meals, gifts and especially companionship.
- A family doctor, two community nurses and three volunteers regularly visited and screened between 60 and 100 patients, mainly the bedridden and those confined to their homes.
- A social worker assessed 300 cases according to medical criteria.
- A project coordinator managed the project and cooperated with the program's outreach team.
- Specialized practitioners, such as an orthopedist, ophthalmologist, psychologist and nutritionist, visited 60 sick individuals as needed.
- Medication was also prescribed to and secured for the 60 patients as needed.
- Two hundred and fifty people took part in celebrations, events and parties held by ATTA, including the celebration for UN Day of the Elderly, Christmas and Mother's Day. Guests enjoyed music, singing and dancing, and had a special nutritious meal, in addition to receiving gifts and sweets on the occasion. The students of the Ramallah Lutheran School presented them with roses, scarves and shawls. The guests still remember and talk about those happy days.
ATTA's projects are very much in harmony with the priorities of United Methodist Women, especially the social action priority: health and health care.
Aisha Tamem (above, left) was discovered by ATTA's team, attracting the attention of the national media as well as the Ramallah Governorate and the Ministry of Social Services because of total neglect by her two sons, who left her without food, clothing or medical care. She also suffers from the effects of two strokes that left her partially paralyzed.
Aisheh (above, center) 71, from Ramallah, holds a gift from ATTA that contains a set of bedding (sheet, pillowcase and bedcover) and a hygiene kit donated by the Jerusalem Humanitarian Outreach of the Mormon University, Mount of Olives, in 2011. She uses a wheelchair inside her home. She lives with her 8-year-old grandson, whose father, her son, left him in order to remarry in Jordan. She does not have any contact with her son or know of his whereabouts. She is paralyzed and has diabetes and high blood pressure. ATTA provides her with health and medical care, including psychosocial support, medication and hot meals. As her diabetes puts her in coma often times, ATTA's doctor is always on call for her.
Jamileh (above, right) is a 105-year-old woman who lives alone in a miserable two-room dwelling. She has two sons, neither of whom care for her, and survives on charity from neighbors. She suffers from hypertension and heart disease, and has very poor eyesight and hearing. ATTA's team cleans her house, gives her a daily bath and cooks healthy food for her. ATTA also replaced Jamileh's old gas oven with a new safe one and renovated her bathroom.
Mrs. Ni'meh is an 87-year-old Christian woman who lives in Ramallah by herself. Her husband passed away 30 years ago, and she no longer has any living relatives. She lives in the basement of a rented house, and her home has no windows. Her Muslim neighbors living on the first floor of the house keep an eye on her and often care for her when the ATTA community nurse is not there. Mrs. Ni'meh suffers from several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. She has health insurance, but usually when the nurse attempts to pick up her medication, it is unavailable, so ATTA purchases it.
The ATTA family doctor visits Mrs. Ni'meh regularly and supervises her case. She is also a recipient of ATTA hot meals and other social care and entertaining programs. Because she has no family, she cherishes the time that guests spend with her. She is such a lovable woman, full of dignity and pride.
This winter has been a harsh one. It snowed in Ramallah last week. At the time, Ni'meh had no bread until ATTA community worker reached her when the weather allowed. This woman never complains, instead thanking God for her blessings and the love she receives from others.
With assistance from United Methodist Women , ATTA is able to reach out to Mrs. Ni'meh and 30 other women like her, providing health and social care, medication, hot meals and gifts, and especially companionship. Thank you for making this service possible!