FY 10: Aging in Displacement (Johns Hopkins University)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
May 9, 2012

For the full report, go to: http://www.jhsph.edu/refugee/publications_tools/index.html

Project Overview and Key Findings

Older adults are often overlooked in humanitarian emergencies, and their physical and mental health conditions poorly measured. In Georgia, the percentage of the population sixty years of age or older is on an upward trend while there is a declining trend in the number of children. The objectives of the study were to: (1) develop, pilot and validate an instrument to measure physical and mental health status of displaced older adults (aged 60 and over) in Georgia; (2) conduct a prevalence study of 900 older adult IDPs, comparing “protracted” populations with “shorter-term” displaced and urban with non-urban (to also conduct a case study of older Chechen refugees to compare IDP and refugee experiences); and (3) promote guidelines for measuring physical and mental health status of displaced older adults. Some key findings include:

· Comparatively high levels of depression and anxiety were found among the study population of displaced older adults;

· Older IDPs considered economic and health problems to be their most significant concerns. IDPs frequently report lack of financial resources to pay for prescription medications and specialist care/surgeries, due to inadequate health insurance coverage;

· The most frequently mentioned illnesses and conditions were chronic and included mobility problems, blood pressure problems, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease; and

· Populations living in state-owned collective centers were found to have poorer health and mental health status than those living in private accommodations.


· Concerning protracted IDPs, the Georgian government should close state-owned collective centers and either help residents move to private accommodations elsewhere or to remain in the newly privatized (and improved) facilities;

· The Georgian government should provide transitional income and pension support to IDPs and refugees as they shift from a status-based support system to one that is integrated into national pension and health insurance schemes;

· Concerning Chechen refugees, the government should support their full and rapid legal integration through registration, documentation, and provision of secure status concluding with naturalization;

· The Georgian government should develop and promote programs to involve older adults as volunteers and counselors in health, education and social welfare programs. One potential model is that of an Experience Corps®-like program that trains older adults to work as volunteer mentors in local schools;

· UNHCR should work with international partners and with the government of Georgia to develop needs-based, transitional health and mental health support for vulnerable sub-populations. This could include short-term assistance to medically needy individuals and access to psycho-social rehabilitation programs; and

· PRM and other donors should consistently raise the protection and assistance needs of elderly displaced populations in international fora.