Voices of older people in Lebanon

This blog piece is written by Chris McIvor, HelpAge International Regional Representative for Eurasia and the Middle East.


Over the last few years HelpAge and the United Nations Population Fund Arab States Regional Office (UNFPA ASRO) have published a range of materials to advance the rights of older people. Yet we have an unfulfilled ambition of seeing this work translated into practice and providing concrete, tangible benefits to the people these documents are meant to serve.  

So, it has been with great excitement and enthusiasm that I have travelled to Lebanon last week to attend a meeting on putting into practice a Guide we have produced on involving older people in the process of policy formulation and review. The workshop has been a joint endeavour of University of Seniors, UNFPA and HelpAge regional office. 

The reason we have chosen Lebanon is to do with both needs and opportunity.  

  • It has the fastest growing ageing population in the region with an expectation that by 2040 it will have more older people than children.  
  • Economic collapse has increased the vulnerability of people over the age of 65 with the pension system all but collapsed, social safety nets inadequate, and heightened levels of destitution and poverty registered in this section of the population. 
  • Lebanon has recently developed a national ageing strategy. As it works out an action plan to translate its provisions into practice, it was felt timely to insert into these national deliberations a commitment to include the voices, views and recommendations of marginalised older people. The purpose of the workshop was to identify how this might best be done. 

Rights of older people in the Middle East

We have partnered with the UNFPA ASRO and other organisations to assess the state of the rights of older people across the Middle East.

Download the resources below to find out more.

Rights of older people in the Middle East

A few things struck me over the course of the last few days. Firstly, that despite its own resource constraints and difficulties the Ministry of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health, which were both represented at the workshop, evidenced a strong commitment that the development of the action plan be consultative and inclusive. This has been backed up by plans to hold meetings with older people and a request to involve civil society organisations in making sure that those who are most in need of policies to protect them are significantly involved. 

A second issue that emerged is that any programme of policy and legal reform needs to be accompanied by more public facing advocacy. A country can have the most progressive legislation relating to older people but if public attitudes lag then positive laws will not be enough. Part of the deliberations at the workshop was how to address ageism in the wider society, as well as engaging with older people themselves on awareness of their rights and how best to access them. 

The next few months will reveal whether the workshop recommendations have been translated into practice. The commitment and enthusiasm of those who attended gives grounds for optimism that this will take place. Meanwhile there are other countries in the region where accessing the voices of marginalised older people would benefit the roll out of national strategies. The lessons from Lebanon will be instructive in moving that ambition forward. 

Older people in crisis in Lebanon

Rising food and fuel costs together with an ever-worsening financial conditions are adversely affecting older people in Lebanon, especially those with an already low or no income.

The food, fuel, finance crisis: Lebanon under the spotlight