Critical concerns facing older Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Housing woes, income insecurity and healthcare obstacles amongst top priorities.


The latest report by HelpAge International,Learning from the experiences of older Ukrainian refugees in Poland has revealed distressing realities faced by older individuals in the country. 

  • Only 8 per cent of the 382 older Ukrainian refugees surveyed are able to pay their medical bills in full. 
  • Nearly 80 per cent of surveyed refugees are battling with anxiety or depression.
  • 18 per cent of survey respondents do not leave their house to attend social meetings, activities or visit friends. 

Since the Russian invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, Poland has faced a significant influx of Ukrainian refugees, including an unprecedented number of older refugees. Of the one million Ukrainian refugees in the country, 73,000 are older people over the age of 60.  

Since then, the Polish government is responding to this massive displacement of people. Now that the emergency phase has ended, it is time to address the specific needs of older Ukrainian refugees in the longterm. 

'Everyone has their own story, but it hurts us all the same'

Our report ‘Everyone has their own story, but it hurts us all the same: Learning from the experiences of older Ukrainian refugees in Poland’ provides a closer investigation into the needs, challenges and wellbeing of older Ukrainians in Poland.

Access the report in English and Polish.

Learning from the experiences of older Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Accommodation challenges 

Nearly half of the respondents are renting their accommodation and half are benefitting from some kind of accommodation support. Households headed by older people were found to be more dependent on such support.  

Fragile income security 

 85 per cent of respondents are not employed in Poland. While many expressed readiness to work, they face difficulties in finding a job due to health limitations, language barrier and age discrimination. 57 per cent of respondents receive a Ukrainian pension, which is however too low and increases their dependency on further financial support. 

When converted to the Polish zloty, the average Ukrainian pension does not give real security and real chance at self-dependence. One can, perhaps, afford a very modest living. And prices in Poland rose quite rapidly in the last period of time in regard to basic products. The situation of older people is the most difficult when it comes to refugees and Ukrainian citizens.

Employee of a social welfare institution

Inadequate social support from the Polish government 

Older Ukrainian refugees had good access to the one-off cash benefit provided by the Polish government and to universal state family benefits such as child support. However, access to other kinds of social protection schemes is more complicated due to a number of barriers, including language and access to information. 

Crossroads in healthcare 

61 per cent of older Ukrainian refugees in Poland have a disability, 70 per cent have a chronic illness or serious medical condition and 64 per cent are currently undergoing treatment or take medication.  

Long waiting time, language barriers, and limited access to information on the available services are the main obstacles that prevent older Ukrainian refugees from accessing health care services in Poland.  

Mental health and psychological wellbeing of older Ukrainian refugees remains a point of concern.  

You see how different we all are. Everyone has their own story, but it hurts us all the same. There are people who came here with absolutely nothing. There are people for whom it is psychologically especially difficult. And our health is not getting better either. We wake up with tears and fall asleep with tears.

Anna, who lives in a collective shelter

Lack of access to information and social inclusion 

Nearly all research participants feel that they do not have enough information about available programmes and support in Poland. With only 2 per cent of respondents being fluent in Polish, the provision of Polish language courses tailored to the needs of older Ukrainians may be an important means to facilitate their social inclusion. 

Recommendations to improve the wellbeing of older Ukrainian refugees in Poland 

  • Develop policies and programmes focused on long-term solutions and tailored to the needs of older people
  • Grant permission to stay legally in Poland, regardless of work or study prerequisitions  
  • Provide free accommodation support at inclusive and accessible collective shelters 
  • Provision of work through legal contracts
  • Disaggregate data on refugees by age, gender and disability
  • Provide access to health and long-term care and support services as well as mental health and psychosocial support
  • Address the risk of social exclusion and isolation of older Ukrainian refugees through social integration and strengthening links within the community
  • Prioritise the engagement and inclusion of older people, integrating their perspectives and experiences into plans, programmes, and evaluations.