“I’m 60, although I don’t look like my age,” laughs Kareem, who came to Jordan in 2011 after having fled the war in Yemen. “But here, when you are over 35, people think that there is no use for you anymore,” he says. Many refugees in Jordan live in precarious financial situations. Elderly refugees often face additional and overlooked difficulties. By and large, most refugees are unable to work due to Jordanian law. Elderly refugees often face additional and overlooked difficulties. They are even less likely to find work and can battle health challenges.
“I started working when I was 19 years old, just after high school,” recalls Kareem, who worked as a Taxi driver in Yemen. “And I was working continuously until seven years ago, when I came to Jordan. When I came here I was surprised that everyone told me there is no use for me anymore. I still have the energy, the desire and capability to work—but nobody wanted me to.”
Noor, who lived in Damascus until her house was destroyed by bombs in 2013, shares the same struggle. Recent regulatory changes have made it easier for Syrian refugees to engage in the Jordanian labor market. Still, many of these jobs are inaccessible for elderly women, says Noor. “For example in manufacturing factories, employers always prefer women that are younger, like everywhere in the private sector. In our culture, people think that people of our age are expired.”
According to figures from the UNHCR, elderly refugees make up four percent of the Syrian refugee population in Jordan. They often have to cope with additional medical issues, such as diabetes, the costs of which often surpass the humanitarian assistance they are able to receive. CRP has started covering diabetes kits, which cost $30—a large expense for a refugee.
Another problem they face is social isolation. Without children and divorced from her husband, Noor came to Jordan on her own and had to cope with loneliness. While a lot of refugees of all ages share this experience, it can be worse for the elderly, who are often not as mobile and able to adapt to new environments as younger people. “This was also a reason why I wanted to work, to not to feel so lost anymore,” Noor says.
Without family support, Noor has to work to make ends meet. Kareem also struggles to pay for expensive food and rent in Amman for his wife and adult son. Thanks to UPP, the organization funding their positions for six months at CRP, both Kareem and Noor have just joined CRP’s staff. They will help out in refugee home visits and in food distributions. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to work. It is important for me to contribute to the society I am living in,” says Noor. Kareem agrees, saying that “sitting at home without something to do is a sickness.”
While Noor and Kareem have been lucky enough to find work with CRP, many other elderly refugees in our community aren’t so fortunate. They will have difficulty getting through the winter as they struggle to heat their homes, pay for food and medical supplies, and meet new people.
CRP will try to help as many refugees as possible this winter, but we need your support to do it. Right now, CRP desperately needs more donations in order to help refugees of all ages cope with the winter. Donate now!