How an Existing Cultural Value Saves Turkish Elderly in Europe

30 years old Yasmin Memis from Cologne, Germany regularly runs her grandmother’s errands since novel Coronavirus pandemic broke out in Germany. Memis has not allowed her 78 years old grandmother to enter supermarkets and similar places where one may be at risk of being infected due to an indoor crowd. Her behavior is not unique but a widely practiced cultural code still exists among Turkish community despite living in Europe for 5 decades.

Most European countries have been going through a nursing homes nightmare. Thousands of elderly people have been left to die in pain in institutions where they were supposed live remaining of lives in peace. Older people outside of nursing homes have also been vulnerable to the novel Coronavirus. Most elders whom have managed to avoid the virus have hard time going out for shopping and other needs, German Deutsche Welle stressed in one of its reports. People older than 70 years old make up almost 80 percent of the total death in Germany, according to Robert Koch Institute. So older people are the most vulnerable to the virus. However, that has not particularly been the case among the Turkish community.

Turks have started to immigrate to Europe during 1960s. In most European countries, fourth of fifth generations are blossoming. Despite being away from the motherland for five decades, Turkish community members still practice their inherited cultural codes. The spokesperson for Coordination Councils of Muslims in Germany, Burhan Kesici, said during an interview with German magazine IslamiQ, that neighborhood support groups have been set up after the outbreak to support the elderly within their community. “Shoppings and errands of elderly have been carried out by other community members so the higher risk age groups could stay home,” Continued Kesici. One could see this reaction among Europeans as a instant reaction during the outbreak but it has always been an important part of Turkish culture.

Although there is no official data, community members confirm that the number of Turkish elderly at nursing homes are very low comparing to Europeans. Significant amount of Turkish-origined families either live in the same house or near by with their elders. And that is what helps to keep them away from the streets during dangerous Coronavirus epidemic.

Turkey banned people older than 65 years old from going outside on March 22nd. Several government and municipality staff worked around the clock to provide the needs of the older people. But what really made this important measure to work without a flaw is the same culture. “Younger generation always have their eyes on their elderly. You dont even have to relatives. Youngers always keep their eyes and ears open for the needs of elderly,” says one Ankara resident.

More than 50 thousand people lost their lives in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK due to Covid-19. Most of the 5 million Turkish diaspora in Europe live in those countries. And more than 310 Turkish-descent people died in those 5 countries because of the Coronavirus.

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