Help Age International.
This article was in fact written in April 2013 prior to the Israeli Offensive that began on the 8th July 2014 and rained bombs down on Gaza for 51 days.
There are 191,000 people aged 60 or over living in the occupied Palestinian Territory, thats 4.4% of the total population.
These are the forgotten victims of the prolonged conflict and economic isolation. 49% of older people are living below the national poverty line. In a survey conducted in the Gaza strip in 2010, 47% of patients were unable to get the required medication and “sadness” was affecting up to 96% of these displaced citizens.
Cast Lead in 2008/2009 and then the Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012 destroyed much of the social infrastructure in Gaza and over 100,000 were driven from their homes, thousands killed and many more thousands injured. Family members were lost and many elderly were left isolated, bewildered and disoriented. They had already survived the Nakba, where as children they were driven from their homes and witnessed siblings and parents being massacred…the torment has not relented for their entire lives and even now they are unable to live with dignity and self respect. An assessment carried out by HelpAge showed that many institutions and Humanitarian Agencies overlook the needs of these vulnerable and abandoned Palestinian citizens.
When I was in Gaza in April 2013 I had the privilege to visit the Grandparents House in Gaza City, the pilot project of its kind. Plans are in place to create similar havens in other areas of the Gaza strip where the elderly struggle to integrate into society and suffer in lonely silence.
Here, I spoke with Nakba survivors who were undergoing physiotherapy and medical treatment, all of whom were overjoyed to have social interaction and to spend hours domino duelling with their friends, many of whom they would not see without the organisation of HelpAge. I was shown proudly around the garden, the homemade pizza oven and the lovingly tended vegetable plot.
I was both impressed and profoundly moved by the project and by the enthusiasm and compassion amongst the staff at HelpAge. At the Grandparents house, I saw a real sense of community, a regaining of self respect, humour and belonging. It is so easy to achieve, a smile, a recognition, a hand of kindness is all it takes to bring respite to a tired soul and here in Gaza..many hands are at work. May God bless them all.