Jordan’s Older People Profile: A first for the country’s older population

Looking to help improve the lives of Jordan’s older population, HelpAge partnered with iMMAP for an assessment to identify vulnerabilities, capacities, needs and gaps in assistance for older people living in Jordan.

iMMAP’s Hanan Aqilan (left) and HelpAge Jordan’s Stephanie Yousef (right) presenting at the launch of the report in January

HelpAge International is an organization with operations in a number of countries all over the world that focuses on promoting the well-being and inclusion of older women and men, and reduce poverty and discrimination in later life.

Jordan has been at the forefront of the Syrian refugee crisis. Alongside Lebanon and Turkey, Jordan has absorbed a massive influx of Syrian refugees since the outset of the Syrian civil war. According to data released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of September 2018, there are 671,428 registered Syrian refugees living in Jordan, which accounts for 11.9% of the total number of displaced registered Syrian refugees.

Eighty-one percent of Jordan-based Syrian refugees live within host communities rather than refugee camps, making their absorption into Jordan’s cities and governorates very challenging. Accessibility to affordable health care services and housing are just two hurdles facing Syrian refugees, including those 60 and older, who have been classified among the most at-risk categories of displaced people by UNHCR.

“HelpAge International has been raising awareness among humanitarian actors and government institutions about the vulnerabilities of older men and women as a result of humanitarian crises. Through a capacity assessment we conduct, we realized the lack of attention given by international organizations and other agencies to older men and women, despite their identification among the most at-risk categories of displaced people by the UNHCR,” said Stephanie Yousef, HelpAge Jordan’s Inclusion Program Manager.

In response to the little understanding or even awareness of the specific risks and experiences of older people in Jordan, including Syrian refugees, HelpAge Jordan approached iMMAP to assist in conducting an extensive assessment and report, which will serve as a resource that better informs an array of invested stakeholders, including a host of NGOs and members of the private sector, about this overlooked population. It would be the first of its kind ever to be published in the country.

“Working with this segment of the population is inspiring and critical. There’s no info or data on Jordan’s older population anywhere, so HelpAge undertook this project to fill that gap and identify the specific risks facing Jordan’s older population as a means to educate and build awareness of the unique experiences and challenges they face in the country.” Stephanie Yousef

The findings of this comprehensive profile bring forth a much-needed characterization of older people in Jordan that highlights their unique challenges and service gaps, when measured against their rights. According to Yousef, “this report provides a framework upon which to develop targeted governmental and humanitarian outreach programs to better serve older Syrian refugees and older Jordanian citizens.”

The report produced a number of interesting findings, most notably the perception of the role of older people in society. According to the results highlighted by the report, 40% of the 423 family members interviewed believe that older people have no role to fill in the community context. Another noteworthy finding is the feelings of loneliness amongst 60% of interviewed older Syrians, while two-thirds of those interviewed older Syrians denied participating in any social activities, alluding to the considerable impact of their displacement from their homes and communities in Syria.

iMMAP was heavily involved with the project from the outset to its culmination. Working with 16 enumerators, iMMAP provided technical support in a number of areas, including sampling strategy design, data cleaning and inferential analysis.

“HelpAge is honored to have worked with iMMAP at a highly functional level and with a wonderful team spirit. iMMAP was timely, professional and encouraging. They helped facilitate evidence-based decisions through their sector expertise by developing a comprehensive dashboard, providing technical support regarding sampling methodology, monitoring techniques, data cleaning and structuring, inferential analysis and many other areas.”Stephanie Yousef

iMMAP regularly followed up and monitored the interview process, attending the interviews first hand and meeting those surveyed personally. Throughout the interview phase, the team came across people grateful to have their voices heard and cared for.

“Meeting them was an eye-opening experience,” says Hanan Aqilan -- iMMAP’s project lead. “They were more than willing to speak up, share their experiences and answer the most difficult questions, even without compensation. They were just so happy to have someone to talk to, someone they can bear their hearts to. A single interview would sometimes last up to 45 minutes because they are just so happy to have someone to talk to.”

Utilizing the Vulnerability Assessment Framework, along with the help of HelpAge advisors in fields such as Health and Protection, the qualitative and quantitative questions were determined for the report. Questions covered a vast range of topics and issues, including risks related to health, shelter, water and sanitation, psycho-social and the economy, access to health services, protection challenges, and the surveyed older people's views of the services and programs afforded to them.

Participants raising questions about the role of the elderly in Jordanian society.

During the launch of the report in January, many attendees stood up and raised a number of questions and grievances directed at a panel that included government representatives and towards the government’s treatment and perception of its older population.

“The older men and women in Jordan expressed excitement that their needs are finally being talked about,” informs Yousef. “They expressed enthusiasm for further advocacy work and hope that they will be able to influence national policies one day and move the agenda forward in relation to Older People’s rights.”

HelpAge Jordan, with iMMAP’s assistance, are set to launch a Response Plan in the near future.

“We hope this report will help make a change, a change in the lives of older men and women (Jordanians and Syrian refugees) in Jordan,” asserts Hanan. “We hope that the response plan will forge a path for more rights and opportunities for the country’s older population. One day, I hope to revisit the older people that we interviewed and notice a substantive change in their lives and reality.”


The full report can be downloaded here:

The project was supported by the German Foreign Office, responsible for Germany’s humanitarian relief abroad since 1968.