It is with great delight to welcome you to MENARAH, a network dedicated to understanding the implications of population ageing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. MENARAH brings together prominent researchers with expertise on the topic from MENA and across the globe. In addition to representations from the international research community, we have actively involved policymakers and non-governmental organisations concerned with the wellbeing of older people and their families. Our membership includes key non-academic stakeholders interested in the welfare of older people in the region and globally; such as HelpAge International, the United Nations’ International Institute on Ageing and the Global Brain Health Institute.
Our international partners offer excellent opportunities for learning from the experience of more developed countries. Yet, we fully recognise that while there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the international community, there is a need for tailored and well-designed strategies and interventions that are specific to MENA region’s socio-political context. Within the region, the family and community are the core components of social support networks to older people and those with long term care needs. Our work recognises the importance of such social capital. We aim to build on and strengthen such resources through active involvement of community stakeholders and mobilising the research agenda to create tailored initiatives dedicated to integrating and enhancing their contributions.
The pace of population ageing in the region is considerably faster than previous international experiences. Within as little as 20 to 40 years, most MENA countries are predicted to transfer from young to ageing populations. The latter is considerably shorter than the experience observed earlier in Europe and North America, where countries took between 50 to 150 years to reach similar milestones. Furthermore, due to earlier trends of high fertility rates in the region, the numbers of people entering old age are remarkably large. Government and societies need to formulate prompt and effective responses to such significant changes in their population structures.
The region must view these demographic changes and population ageing as an enhancement to the societal assets and opportunities for positive change. Similar to other LMICs, the MENA region is ill-prepared to harvest such opportunities and meet the challenges associated with ensuring the health and wellbeing of older people and their families. Current evidence identifies significant gaps in preparedness to population ageing at multiple levels of governance, policy response, environment and infrastructures as well as public awareness. One of the vital missing components to develop adequate response is the lack of research and accurate data on the situation of older people and their family carers in.
COVID-19 pandemic has raised serious concerns about the ability of the region to protect older people and provide them with a safe and healthy environment. Many older people often lack immediate social support networks or income opportunities and have been increasingly prone to isolation, especially with lockdown and curfews enforced in most countries. Older women, in particular, are more susceptible to isolation and lack of participation opportunities.
Network members are actively seeking funding opportunities to initiate new research projects and engagement activities. We aim to raise awareness and building capacity in the region to understand various challenges and opportunities associated with population ageing. Our strategy is to work collaboratively with partners across the region, ensuring the inclusion of older people and their carers’ perspectives, to identify priorities and practical solutions that are economically, socially and culturally sensitive to the context of the region.
We hope you engage with the activities of our network and contribute to the learning and knowledge translation.
Professor Shereen Hussein
MENARAH network lead
Image credit: Martin Zangeri, unsplash.com