"We're afraid of the virus"
Mr. Ahmed Al-Dahir, 60, from North Marka, Amman, shares his experience of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"At the beginning I thought that the virus was a rumor and a kind of exaggeration. I thought that we were definitely safe because we are geographically far from China. We did not expect that things would reach this limit. But now we have become afraid of getting close to our friends and family. We are afraid of touching anything.
Since the spread of the virus, everything started to change. We have so much fear inside us, especially as we hear that older people are more susceptible to acquiring the disease than others. We have even started to change habits that have accompanied us since childhood, such as having family gatherings and the way we communicate with each other.
It has become our main concern to obtain sanitisers as they are not available most of the time. The biggest shock was when the governorate [administrative division within Jordanian regions] announced a curfew, preventing people from leaving their house even to buy necessities. I feel as if we are in a room without windows or doors.
I feel anxious that the virus will continue to spread, and I am extremely afraid for my children and the rest of my family. My biggest concern is that the virus infects a member of my family. If any of us contracted it, everyone else would be at risk as we are 10 people living together in our small house.
To be honest, I do not think that accessing health services is easy. When I call the emergency number, there is no quick response due to the high pressure they are under. There is no special number for older people or for urgent cases, at least that I know of.
In my opinion, I see that the media is doing its role in terms of spreading awareness about the virus and about preventive action, and it's covering the news about the situation in Jordan. I think that the government is following very strict measures to contain the virus and prevent its spread. I feel that the virus is dangerous for everyone, especially since the number of infected cases is increasing day by day. At the same time, we are confused with these strict precautionary measures; are they an urgent necessity or an exaggeration? But I think these measures are in the best interest of the citizens and help raise awareness of the situation.
The government has not indicated specific measures that consider the needs of older people. Preventive measures are comprehensive for all, including older people. The local community has developed some initiatives to support people, but they are general, comprehensive, and not specific to older people. Older care givers like me, must be provided with some specific assistance. I am the main source of income for my family and they rely on me, but now I do not have a steady income.
I hope that this crisis will end soon. And I hope that all institutions will pay more attention to the needs of older people. There are many institutions that defend the rights of children and the rights of women, but very few who support or care for older people's rights and needs. Unfortunately, with the coronavirus crisis, we have found many cases of bullying against older people. Social media users are disregarding the feelings of older people. It has been said repeatedly that this virus only kills older people, but this is a big mistake because it can harm all people. However, the older people's committee, currently working under the umbrella of HelpAge International in Jordan has had a beautiful initiative with an online advocacy campaign on Facebook entitled "My Health, My Care”. This campaign seeks to improve health services for older people and to raise awareness of the importance of considering the psychological health of older people during this pandemic. It provides a lot of advice and guidance for older people about coronavirus. Most importantly, the phone calls that are being made to us, older men and women, by HelpAge staff and volunteers are extremely efficient at lowering our stress levels and making us realise that there are people and organisations that genuinely care about our wellbeing.