Elderly Israelis in Jerusalem
Elderly Israelis in JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Israeli leaders in Samaria (Shomron) have unveiled a plan to improve quality of life for the region’s elderly. While currently just 2 percent of Samaria residents are elderly, their numbers are expected to swell to 10 percent over the next decade.

A few years ago then-Deputy Minister for Pensioners Affairs Leah Nass visited the region and proposed that Samaria be one of ten regional councils in Israel to create an innovative new program for the elderly. This week Samaria leaders presented the plan to Nass’ successor, Minister Uri Orbach.

One big problem in Samaria is accessibility. Residents of the area are spread out across 2,800 square kilometers, and many small communities do not have a doctor’s office or pharmacy.

The Samaria Regional Council is adding new services to compensate, including a mobile doctor’s office that will travel from one town to the next day and night, and a 24-hour pharmacy in one of the region’s larger communities.

Another issue that pensioners may face in Samaria is the size of housing. While young couples are often drawn to the region by the relatively large apartments available for a low price, elderly couples can find themselves living alone in homes with a floor space of 150-200 meters, with taxes and upkeep costs becoming a burden.

In response, regional leaders have proposed that the elderly be given special permission to split their apartments in two, giving them a smaller living space that would reduce their economic burden, and creating a new apartment that could be rented out or used by adult children.

While creating the plan regional officials researched Samaria’s population of pensioners. They found that pensioners in Samaria make more use of technology than the average elderly Israeli, with 71 percent using computers and the internet and 85 percent using mobile phones.

Pensioners in the region are also more active than the national average, with 54 percent involved in volunteer work, 27 percent involved in public activism, and many more interested in becoming active in volunteerism or politics.

In light of their findings, community officials decided to create a center, both physical and virtual, for new initiatives. The center will allow pensioners to help one another through a network of support, and even to reach out to provide assistance beyond Samaria’s borders.

Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika explained, “Through the network, elderly participants can learn about their rights by asking experts or friends, or could find out, for example, if there is an elderly French speaker who is interested in teaching other pensioners the language, thus creating an activity for both the teacher and student.”

Other data gathered on Samaria’s pensioners showed cause for optimism. Eighty percent of the elderly said they do not feel lonely, a higher percent than the national finding. Ninety-one percent said they feel safe in their homes, and 84 percent feel safe walking around their communities at night. Ninety-six percent of children in Samaria who live near their grandparents said they enjoy visiting.