SEATTLE, Washington — As an organization that aids the elderly, HelpAge International found it particularly necessary to initiate a combative plan against COVID-19 to help its target vulnerable population. The organization’s vision is to create a fairer world for older people so they can live safe, healthy and dignified lives.
Poverty, COVID-19 and the Elderly
As people age, their likelihood of experiencing poverty also rises. This comes as a result of income insecurity. Many countries lack secure social protection systems with benefits and coverage high enough to support people into old age. Countries that fall short of providing these secure social protection systems are often those that are less developed, leaving room for older generations to become susceptible to poverty.
Nowadays, an added stressor on the elderly is COVID-19. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as someone gets older, the likelihood of severe illness like COVID-19 increases. In the United States, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths were people aged 65 or older. With a higher risk for illness, it is even more important for older people to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands.
Located in 85 countries with 154 branches, HelpAge International is working to help millions of elderly people across the globe. Specifically, the organization seeks to better the lives of older people in lower-income countries in order to reduce discrimination and poverty. To do so, it targets the community stigma against poverty in older generations and hopes to create policies to protect the individuals suffering. The NGO uses 10 inclusive strategies to accomplish its mission: promote lifelong learning, challenge ageism, integrate technology, support healthy aging, inspire change, build an inclusive society, better income security, provide humanitarian assistance, promote age-systems and fight against violence and abuse.
Efforts by HelpAge International During COVID-19
Some of the efforts taken by HelpAge include advocacy, distributing food, campaigning, raising awareness, psychological and phone support, community togetherness and providing personal protective equipment, hygiene kits and medical distributions. Across the world, 56 branches engage in advocacy, 22 branches are campaigning for better services, 25 branches promote community togetherness, 38 branches have distributed food, 45 branches provide psychological and phone support services, 45 branches supply PPE, medicine and hygiene kits and 55 branches are educating communities about COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19, HelpAge implemented the inclusive plan called Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to ensure that all members of the community can practice safe hygiene to slow the spread of the virus. The plan has four steps to ensure safe practices:
Collect Information. HelpAge wants to be able to monitor and identify older people based on their given living situation in order to best help them stay healthy
Safe and Equal Access to Water Supply. Without access to facilities, older people cannot practice good hygiene so it must be taken into consideration how accessible water is.
Participation. Volunteers of HelpAge should encourage and monitor hygiene practices by older people to make sure these marginalized groups are staying safe.
Allow Representation of Older People and Those with Disabilities. With representation, HelpAge hopes to address the concerns of those people faster.
Recognition for COVID-19 Efforts
One branch of HelpAge in Jordan recently received recognition by the government and was classified as a first responder to the virus because of all the work it has done. By gaining the support of local organizations, HelpAge Jordan rolled out its strategic program, Protect, Assist and Advocate. Like in many countries, older people have been restricted from leaving their homes and this program aims to make the lives of those affected easier. With efforts from HelpAge, 2,200 older people received assistance and 2,600 older people received hygiene kits.
As an organization working specifically with older people, HelpAge International automatically felt the need to take necessary measures to further protect the people it serves during COVID-19. HelpAge is showing its commitment to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the most critically affected people.
– Adrianna Tomasello