In 2022, the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee designed and implemented a study with the support of Washington University in St. Louis on older adults’ well-being. The study was conducted in 21 schools in Badakhshan province and the Jaighori district of Ghazni province. Currently, in Afghanistan, there are very few services for older adults who experience mental disorders or other difficulties. The aim of this study was to investigate factors that might improve the well-being and quality of life of older adults in villages.
This study was comprised of two parts 1) a survey and 2) group model-building workshops with older adults. A survey team interviewed participants. The survey was conducted with older adults whose family members were part of our previous study on education equality and quality.
The group model building workshop was conducted in four phases. In the first phase, we conducted focus group discussions regarding their impressions and beliefs about well-being. The next phase was variable elicitation in which older adults identified factors that influence their well-being. The third phase was creating a connection circle in which the participants identified the cause and effect relationships and feedback loops between different factors that impact well-being. In the fourth phase, the participants identified some actions that could change the system to improve overall well-being.
In one of the focus group discussions in Shina Day high school, a participant said: “I have suffered from COVID-19 over the last two years. I have no money to buy medicine.” This participant showed how poverty may impact older adults’ well-being. In another focus group discussion in Ulyato village, another older adult said: “There is drought in our area, and we do not have access to water in the area for agriculture or for drinking,” demonstrating how drought is another profound challenge in the area influencing the well-being of elders.
At the end of each group model building workshops, the elders come up with some action ideas for actions that could impact the well-being of the elderly. While conducting the group model-building workshop with the elders of Bosaeed village in the Jaghori district, the elders suggested that the action points below be completed to enable the elderly to enjoy a good quality of life.
- Teachers at school should instruct young students to respect the elders in the village, greet them, and respect their ideas. They expressed that if the elders felt respected, they would in turn respect the young children, and mutual respect would be fostered. Beyond mutual respect, elders would also feel valued and happy.
- A place for elders to meet, or Chai Khana should be built by NGOs or the government. This would allow elders to have a place to meet up and enjoy their time.
- Mental health clinics should be built for the village by the government or NGOs. The clinic could create a place for people to be diagnosed and treated for mental disorders to increase overall psychological well-being.
- Literacy courses should be provided by NGOs or the government for elders. Topics like family management could be delivered through these courses allowing them to better manage their daily activities.
Written by Shamsullah Saeedi
Edited by Mara McKown, Mustafa Rfat, and Jean-François Trani