August 3, 2021

Ramallah wants to keep its seniors autonomous and active

What is the policy you are developing in favour of senior citizens ?

The « active ageing » initiative was launched less than three years ago by the Municipality of Ramallah. It was inspired by the slogan, « Leave no one behind », promoted by the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda. The city realized that while many citizen-based projects existed, seniors tended to be somewhat forgotten. Hence the idea of launching this program with its own center, entitled « Forum of Expertise ». The aim is to give senior citizens the opportunity to engage in physical and intellectual activities that keep them fit and autonomous.

Is it the only centre of its kind in Palestine ?

Yes, its approach is unique. There are, of course, old people’s homes where the elderly can be accommodated or day care centres. Our centre is a community location that meets the needs of seniors and encourages them to be creative. Thus, our members do not just passively follow activities. They initiate them and set them up. We are proud to say that Mrs. Suad Sifri, a volunteer who teaches embroidery, is 86 years old ; and that Mr. Kamal Shamshoum who is a sports teacher is 80 years old! Today, we have 386 members, but the news spreads by word-of-mouth and the number continues to grow.

How do you explain this demand ? Is it due to a decline in intra-generation family solidarity ?

It is true that traditionally, in villages, older people live under the same roof as their extended families and that they can benefit from the support of their children. On the other hand, in urban centres, life is changing. Aging in the city can be accompanied by some isolation when children grow up and leave home. . Most of our members live either in a couple or alone because they are divorced or have lost their spouse. Moreover, people do not necessarily prepare for retirement – which, in Palestine, takes place at the age of 60, or even up to the age of 65 – which can have dramatic consequences.

In what way is this project so innovative in Palestine ?

Ramallah has many cafes, sports clubs and gyms. But in a conservative society like ours, it is not common to see seniors going to these types of places. The Forum therefore allows them to socialize and access activities that keep them in shape. Nor is it usual to see men and women participating in the same yoga class. We also have more women than men and would like to encourage more men to come.

Seniors, members of the « Forum Expertise », in yoga classes outside the premises of the association located in Old City in Ramallah.

Beyond gender, what about social and religious diversity ?

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