During times of displacement, older persons have urgent rights and needs. They can be particularly at risk of abuse and neglect during conflict or natural disasters, when a lack of mobility, diminished vision and chronic illnesses can make access to support difficult. Today, older refugees make up some 4 per cent of the overall population of concern to UNHCR, and by 2050 more of the world will be over 60 than under 12 years old.
Older persons are sometimes reluctant to leave their homes and often the last to flee from danger. In exile, they can become socially isolated and physically separated from their families, compounding their situation of vulnerability. Older women and men can actively contribute to their families and communities, even in displacement, if they are given an opportunity.
At UNHCR, we work hard to support and protect older people on the move, enabling access to basic services as they recover and rebuild after a crisis. Our donors, including you, help to ensure that older refugees live their later years in dignity and security.
You know, without the help of UNHCR most of us would starve here,” she says. “But you need more than just a box of food. You also need interaction with other people so you know you are still a human being and not just a number.
At first, 102-year-old Saada was reluctant to leave Syria. Even when the bombing started, she simply continued with her daily routine. Eventually, her grandson persuaded her to flee to Lebanon, but only after promising that he would one day carry her body back and bury her next to her brother.
Abandoning her home has been difficult.
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Facilitator's Guide: Working with older persons in forced displacement
This Facilitator’s Guide on working with older persons in forced displacement is designed to support UNHCR staff, partners and other stakeholders at the field level to improve the protection of forcibly displaced and stateless older people. It includes session objectives, learning points, activity descriptions and tools.
Related documents and resources
- Tip sheet on applying the UNHCR age, gender and diversity policy to older people
- List of all UNHCR Age, Gender and Diversity Accountability reports
- UN Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing
- Humanitarian Inclusion Standards for older people and people with disabilities
- Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Older Persons
- A claim to dignity: Ageing on the move