Participators in a panel discussion on elderly rights stressed the need to review national legislation and public policies to ensure that older persons do not face economic or social exclusion. Noting that social protection is the right of every human being, panelists underlined the importance of raising awareness on the rights of the elderly through media campaigns to protect them and make use of the “flexible working hours system” adopted by the government recently.
These recommendations came during a panel discussion titled “The Rights of Older Persons: Accomplishments and Future Prospects” organized by NCFA in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and HelpAge International and attended by members of the National Follow-up Committee on the Implementation of the National Strategy for Senior Citizens and a wide audience from civil society organizations and academics.
At the beginning of the panel discussion, Lina Al-Qourah, Regional Head of Network Advocacy and Campaigning in Eurasia and Middle East, indicated that the panel discussion is part of the Organization’s campaign marking the International Day of Older Persons (1st of October) which lasts to the end of December 10th coinciding with the 70th anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Al-Qoura pointed out that the objectives of the international advocacy and campaigns are to establish an international convention on the rights of older persons, disseminate and promote the rights contained in the International Declaration on Human Rights, raise awareness and shed light on older persons as active members committed to the enhancement of human rights in all areas of life and not just in their own areas of interest.
In the session moderated by Head of Commination and Monitoring Unit in NCFA, Khadijah Al-Alaween, Al-Qoura added that as 70 years has passed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it is high time that age discrimination ends.
She also highlighted that Jordan suffers a lack of studies, research, surveys and databases on elderly social care and violence cases against them.
On her part, Asma Khader, the Executive Director of Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI) said that perceiving any person over 60 as being old, marginalized and inactive in society is not sound as there are a large number of them in reality who still have the ability to work, give back, and share their experiences with others.
According to Khader, official figures show that 85 thousand older women are breadwinners in their households in Jordan.
“There should not be any kind of age discrimination at work, within the family or in society”, emphasized Khader, saying that older women are faced with compounded discrimination based on gender and old age.
"Some take advantage of the possibility of early retirement for women with the intention of depriving them from work promotions and privileges for the benefit of their male colleges”, continued Khader, indicating that (SIGI) announced the establishment of a new national alliance to protect the rights of senior citizens.
Khader concluded by underlying the need to view older persons positively, work to change the negative stereotyping, end discrimination based on age, and ultimately make use of their long experience and their ability to benefit their society.
On his part, head of the Elderly Health Program in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Hasan Ghanem briefed guests on the rights of senior citizens to health care and insurance services, pointing out that 11 medical clinics have been opened in 11 elderly nursing homes with one physician attending two days a week and a psychiatrist on a needs basis.
He also referred to the availability of comprehensive health care insurance for persons over 60 years and a set of facilitated procedures for attaining health insurance cards for senior citizens in addition to the existence of 8 elderly-friendly health centers in different areas of Jordan.
Dr. Lubna Akroush, a Social Care Specialist/University of Jordan, gave an overview of the types of abuse that affect older persons in general citing the example of financial abuse against older persons where they are taken advantage of financially by stealing from them or using their pensions as collateral for loans taken by their family members and so forth.
Akroush also talked about other types of emotional, physical and spiritual abuse and neglect, emphasizing that although the rate of elderly abuse in Jordan is limited, we must monitor this percentage and provide protection to them.
She also underlined the role of the government in providing dignified residences for senior citizens particularly to those who are homeless.
Lawyer Haneen Al-Bitar, Head of the Corporate Affairs Unit at the Justice Center for Legal Aid, gave a briefing on the nature of legal aid offered at the Center to senior citizens particularly the poor.
Bitar stated that poverty is closely related to deprivation from justice, pointing out that poor elderly males who are abused by their families have no other place to go except for police stations until a solution to their problem is found.
“Older people are being financially exploited by family members who take loans on their retirement pensions subjecting them to legal risks in the event of loan default”, concluded Al-Bitar, emphasizing the increase in interdiction cases in Jordan.
It is to be noted that HelpAge International is an International British organization based in Wales and registered in Jordan as a foreign society in the Societies Registry in 2016.