Recognizing the challenges faced by elderly refugees
War, displacement and fleeing to a foreign country are difficult for anyone, regardless of their age. But for elderly people, this upheaval can be particularly challenging:
- A sudden change to the everyday routine is all the more difficult to handle later in life.
- Elderly refugees often cannot find jobs, or only lower-paid ones, in their new home.
- The social status of elderly refugees can change or fall considerably in the new environment. Feeling useless has a negative effect on a person’s self-confidence and well-being.
- Depending on their situation, elderly refugees need specific resources, professional support and medical treatment or therapy.
- Experiences of war, displacement, violence or the loss of family members can all traumatize refugees.
Elderly refugees are not aware of the local support services in the healthcare, social and old age sectors. Depending on their situation and needs, it can therefore be useful to know about services catering specifically for elderly refugees:
- Security, independence and mobility, combating loneliness: Swiss Red Cross (SRC) – Everyday support for people of all ages
- Living with traumatized people: The SRC has many years of experience providing psychosocial counselling for war trauma victims. Here you can find out the best way to provide everyday support for traumatized refugees. Read the article or listen to the podcast. The article talks about host families who have taken Ukrainian refugees into their homes.
- Everyday advice: People need to stay active to maintain their sense of well-being. They might do this, for example, by taking part in courses, sport or cultural activities for people over 65. Pro Senectute can advise you. It is the largest organization in Switzerland helping elderly people and provides all its services throughout the country.
- Old age and migration: HEKS/EPER, the charity run by the Swiss Evangelical Reform Church, provides support for refugees over 50 making a new start in Switzerland.
In Zurich and Winterthur, volunteers with a migration background help refugees to integrate in tandems.
In Aargau HEKS arranges coffee chats for elderly migrants and for refugees.
At the Herosé care home in Aarau HEKS runs an advice centre for Ukrainians who are residents there or living in and around Aarau.
In Basel HEKS runs coffee chats for Ukrainian refugees over 55 and their relatives.
- When dementia makes everything difficult: Alzheimer Schweiz provides various information and counselling services .
- When care is needed in the home: Contact Spitex for home care services. Spitex services are available in all cantons.
You can find important information about health and healthcare in Switzerland, also in Ukrainian and Russian, at migesplus.ch.
National forum on age and migration
You can find more information for elderly refugees in the national forum on age and migration. The site also has a specific page on Ukraine.
The forum’s website provides links to its member organizations. These all work in the old age, health, migration and integration sectors throughout Switzerland.
As they age, many people have a greater need for emotional and religious/spiritual support. Find out if the people you are hosting/accompany want to practise their religion and would like to contact a religious institution/organization in the area where you live. Help them to get in touch or accompany them on their first visit.
Find out whether there are any associations in your area that the person you host/accompany can contact. Elderly people in particular can find emotional stability by joining a group of compatriots and taking part in activities together.