Haifa campaigns for older people's rights and runs a programme for those experiencing depression.

Untold stories: Haifa Al Basheer, Jordan

At the moment I live alone, but close to my sons’ houses. I used to look after myself, but over the past two years I have had a helper to support me with daily tasks. Currently, I am the vice president of the senior citizens’ platform.
The platform is part of the White Beds Society and serves older people who live with their families and are experiencing depression because they feel that their financial and social life has ended. Their families are busy working, and children are busy with their games and playing – that is why most of the time they feel lonely. In the White Beds Society we run programmes to entertain older people such as literature, poetry, music, art workshops and other events. We also organise trips around Jordan to different places.

How did you get involved in campaigning for older people s rights?

When I started the White Beds Society in 1970 to support nurses and help governmental hospitals I had my husband’s support. His name was Mohammed Al-Basheer and at that time he was the minister of health. He asked for my help to promote his ideas. We met the prime minister and got his support, but he told me “Don t forget about older people”.
At that time, extended families were the norm, so there weren t many problems that older people faced. But after that, nuclear families took over and some problems started to appear. And that s when we started The Golden Age Home, which was opened in 1979, under the patronage of his majesty King Hussein.

Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?

In Jordan older people are considered as the head of families socially and financially, and everyone must obey and respect them. Thankfully, I never face any kind of discrimination because of my age.

Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner

Every occasion and event that makes older people happy makes me happy and proud too. Most of these activities support older people to socialise with others from different backgrounds and age groups.

What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person?

Older people’s role shouldn t end just because of retirement. Life is work. If you are working and you are being productive, then you are a normal human being and you are living a normal life. I say this all the time to older people. The harshest experience that an older person can experience is when they feel that their role in society is over.

How are things improving for older people in your country?

We desperately need positive changes for older people, especially since in a few years’ time older people will make up the biggest proportion of the society. This will be a heavy load on families and governments. And for people who work, it will be much harder for them, to take care of older people and their children at the same time. This effort must be undertaken by everyone – we must be prepared from now.

What needs to be done to improve the situation further?

Last year I asked to have a fund to take care of older people, because the government – with their big loads of responsibilities – are not doing enough. Corporate companies and all governments departments must support this fund. The minister of social development supports this idea.

Do you have a message for other older people around the world?

Knowledge and work are not for a specific age. You shouldn’t feel that it is too late to learn something new or to start a new project.

And finally, what would your perfect world look like?

To me, a perfect world is a place where everyone is equal, and where everyone is equally important regardless of their age. Everyone must be taken care of, not only children but also older people. Ageing shouldn t mean that older people get fewer rights than other age groups. This is the responsibility of governments and decision-makers.
With thanks to the HelpAge office in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Read more stories from older campaigners.