The more you break your routine, the better your life will be…
Hisham Zabalawai, 67, Amman, Jordan
Hisham Zabalawi, 67, says: for nearly 50 years, I worked in the fabric trade business, I used to own a small shop in the center of Amman. I would open early in the morning and sell fabric, and give recommendations on the most appropriate fabrics and designs for different occasions. I used to speak to my friends who are other businessmen until it was closing time, and this became a routine until 2013. This is when I was forced to close my shop due to my inability to keep up with the increasing rent prices and the economic crisis.
After, I retired in 2013, I found myself stuck at home trying to cope with the pressures of life, which were continuously increasing with burdens and family responsibilities, in addition to the psychological pressure of staying home without a job after all these years. All of these factors led me to face a lack of psychological comfort and introduced me amid a whirlpool of pain and responsibilities.
It became increasingly difficult to live with all this empty leisure time or even to participate in the recreational activities I was used to doing like traveling, sitting with friends. I have always loved these activities. However, it was no longer possible to do so after the shop closed because the income was limited and the financial obligations towards the family are more important than activities for myself. Even my social life was no longer existent, because the majority of my friends were businessmen as well that faced the same crisis as myself and no longer wanted to keep in touch due to psychological strain, and the pressures of life.
This continued until I learned about the HelpAge International Knowledge and Resource Hub in March of 2017. I joined the older people group and started meeting with people and participating in the awareness sessions and many other activities. I was so happy here that I even offered to volunteer with this organization, and indeed this is what happened. It was not money I was looking for, it was the passion that stirred internally, a new experience, and something positive to spend my spare time doing, working with the older people who know one else acknowledges.
I describe this experience as breaking the routine, as it is something very different then my previous life routine. It opened the door for me to meet new people, lead on activities, I even went to the Hussein Sports City for a walk, which I had never previously done in my 67 years. I learned about my country and the things there are to do, about the laws and regulations, I learned that Jordan has free healthcare for people over the age of 60 and I even signed up for this. This was the first time in my life that I obtain Health Insurance.
My activities continued, and I was joined up with a partnering organization of HelpAge International, Un Ponte Per, which provided me with a paid internship in March 2018. I am extraordinarily pleased with the positive impact this had on my life. I went from being a negative person to a positive person and having hope again in my life. This is all thanks to the sub-grants that HelpAge provided in order to encourage age inclusive resilience within organizations and the community spreading the message that we still exist, despite age, and that we still have the energy, and the desire to work. I have come to the conviction that the more we break our routine, the more we enjoy life.”