Older generation
15 октября 2019 в 17:10

Society where aging holds no fears

10-11 October the Digital Business Space in Moscow hosted the 7th Society for All Ages National Conference in partnership with the ‘Russia – the territory of care’ Forum. Representatives from public authorities in Russia and abroad and from the scientific and expert communities discussed the challenges facing the government and society due to higher life expectancy and the best Russian and foreign practices in enabling people of all ages to live well. The event was attended by 1500 people from all over Russia, [including] international experts from the USA, Belgium, Germany, Austria and elsewhere.

The plenary opening session was attended by Svetlana Petrova, deputy RF Minister of Labour and Social Security; Anton Drozdov, chair of the RF Pension Fund; Antonios Antoniadis, vice-premier and minister for health, social and family affairs of East Belgium; Elmira Vergazova, deputy head of the department of medical assistance facilitation and sanatoria and health resorts of the RF Health Ministry; Lilia Ovcharova, deputy rector of VShE [Higher School of Economics (HSE)] NIU [academic research establishment (ARE)] and director of the Social Policy Institute of HSE ARE; Olga Zakharova, head of social projects at the Strategic Initiatives Agency; and Ksenia Frank, chair of the supervisory board of the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko.

The attendees discussed arrangements for elderly support and care given the higher average life expectancy and increasing load on social security budgets. According to Svetlana Petrova, deputy minister of labour and social security of the Russian Federation: “These days it is indeed very important to demonstrate interdepartmental and intersectoral coordination in all areas – not only between tiers of authority but between people, between generations, between various entities.” The deputy head of LabMin emphasized that all coordination is geared towards making life better for every person.

Anton Drozdov, Chair of the RF Pension Fund, cited demographic statistics for Russia. “According to the World Bank and Rosstat [Russian Statistics Agency], over-65 citizens accounted for 14.2% of the RF population in 2017. By 2050, they will be 24.3%. This means that we need to talk about what we will be doing about these people in medicine, social security, insurance, in the job market and in society,” emphasized Anton Drozdov. “We are firing on all cylinders, including under national projects. Plans provide for pensions to rise on an ongoing basis. Our target is for pensions to secure not less than 40% of earnings.”

Elmira Vergazova, deputy head of the department of medical assistance facilitation and sanatoria and health resorts of the Health Ministry of Russia,  described the challenges posed by the higher life expectancy for the public health service. “We are tasked with increasing the life expectancy to 78 years by 2024, and by 2030 we are expected to join the over-80 club,” emphasized Elmira Vergazova. “We are giving our all to develop the healthcare system. And whereas Russian medical organizations employed a mere 200 geriatricians in 2017, 818 physicians are available today, and they will be nearly 2000 in 2024. The number of geriatric centres is up to 38 from 3.”

Antonios Antoniadis, vice-premier and minister for health, social and family affairs of East Belgium, told the Russian colleagues about the Belgian best practices in caring for the elderly and the long-term care system put in place. “We are too much preoccupied with stereotypes when we talk about old-age pensioners. We need to organize the life of older people both on the national and local levels. The government can provide some funding, but it is important that society should also be willing to step up and take charge of organizing these processes.”

Ksenia Frank, chair of the supervisory board of the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko, said that to provide a decent standard of living to a mature person requires developing a comprehensive care system with a formal and informal components enabled by different types of organizations. “If we want to actually improve the length and quality of life for the elderly, we must learn how to support a diversity of private initiatives: local councils that bring together retirees with similar interests, non-profits that teach how to care for elderly relatives, and hospitals that start providing home care,” said Frank. An important part of this comprehensive system is non-profits that implement or support initiatives for the elderly. According to Ksenia Frank, the number of individuals and organizations willing to work to this end is significant: the Timchenko Foundation has sponsored more than 1500 projects as part of the Active Generation competition. It is her opinion that for these initiatives to flourish, they must be noticed, coordinated, integrated into the system and supported. “Local governments that understand the value of such initiatives find a way to support them,” emphasized Ksenia Frank.

As part of the conference, the experts discussed the concept of active senior lifestyle in Russia developed by the task force of the RF Government’s Council on Social Trusteeship. Maria Morozova, CEO of the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko and member of the task force, said that the purpose of the policy is [to ensure] the quality of life for however long it lasts for all social groups and to prepare society for demographic changes. To this end, the Policy proposes focusing on three priorities for the elderly: health, a high standard of living, active lifestyle and civic engagement. “We would like this document to serve as a guide for the provinces, enabling them to implement the policy locally,” said Maria Morozova. To measure the trends in living standards, Senior Activity Indices were developed in correlation with the international indices. A pilot measurement has shown that in self-fulfilment for over-55s we are 17% behind Europe and 31% behind Switzerland, which scores the highest.

Experts emphasized that of great importance to the quality of life and a long third age is a pro-active attitude of the senior citizens themselves and societal support for their active lifestyle. “The root problem is not old age but early ageing. Many pensioners are unable to tap their potential to the full. If they could, this would help them and society alike,” said Tatiana Akimov, executive director of Samara Province Regional Foundation and head of the Third Age alliance. “Our strategy is to involve senior citizens themselves, local communities and effective non-profits in the effort to change the quality of senior life. 1 senior leader or 1 non-profit brings 110 pensioners into the project on the average.”

This strategy was endorsed in practical terms by senior citizens – the leaders of seniors projects. They included the winners of the Active Generation competition of the Timchenko Foundation. As part of the session entitled “Active generation: solutions that work”, the project initiators presented their initiatives and discussed the personal, societal and governmental potential of social and entrepreneurial activities in the third age. “Changes that can help a nation change are initiated by specific people,” said Daria Buyanova, head of fundraising at the Good City of St Petersburg foundation and head of Social Innovations MFTsK [Interstate Endowment Foundation (IEF)]. “I began my life’s work at 54. And it made me truly happy!” said Elena Vorontsova, chair of the management board of the St Petersburg Over-50 Fashions Association.

Among the comprehensive solutions to ensure the quality of life for seniors despite the increasing load on the welfare system that have been highlighted by experts is the promotion of informal care practices through the involvement of the close family members and friends and local communities.

Rachel Kahlert, analyst at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, said that according to research findings, the aged live longer at home, in their environment. Good informal care and attention from the family help delay assisted-living arrangements by many years. Community care delivers higher quality of life for the older generation and better well-being. Rachel Kahlert described the foreign practices in informal care. In Slovenia, the official representatives of home care services, informal caregivers and volunteers are all part of an integrated care service network. A one-stop service has been set up. Should a senior citizen ask a person for help, an assessment is made as to what help can be provided and by whom.

According to the participants of the session entitled “Great potential of local communities: family, neighbours, block of flats”, to find a comprehensive solution that works, it is necessary to teach new competencies to children, physicians and teachers, developing educational and training content and bring together the government, local communities, non-profits and the elderly, promoting cooperation in the framework of long-term care.

The development of the long-term care system was another subject that generated a lot of interest with the participants. Yelizaveta Oleskina, head, founder and manager of the Starost v Radost [Joy of Old Age/Golden Years] Charity Foundation, reported on a project to develop a long-term care system, launched in 2018. As of 2019, based on the results of the pilot’s first year, the project has been taken on board by the Demography national project. “Thanks to the fact that provinces started using SDU [long-term care system (LTCS)] approaches, we have managed to estimate how many people need daily care, how many need no care but feel lonely. The provinces revised the list of services, widening it. Service standards are also up. There are now daycare centres being set up such as this country has never seen before. Training is being provided for care coaches, chiefs, in-patient workers, nurses and nursing aides. Working towards this end, we are certain to achieve our goals: longer life expectancy, expansion of outreach for social services, better education, better […]

Yevgeny Yakushev, CEO of the company Pensionniye i Aktuarniye Konsultatsii [Pension and Actuarial Advice], emphasized that actual demand for care in Russia is much higher than the number of citizens entitled to social services – this will lead to an inevitable shortage of care infrastructure down the road. To create new infrastructure meeting the needs of the growing numbers of the elderly, he estimates, requires 600 to 9000 billion roubles. To handle the task of providing care to all those in need, according to Yakushev, the government must move from commissioning and providing social services to commissioning them and enforcing quality and standards, farming out the development of infrastructure and the provision of social services to private corporate providers.

The conference included a discussion of elderly labour market and employment. Among the strong trends in the job market are highlighted the downward trends in the number of vacancies in the traditional mass employment industries and in labour demand by large and medium-sized businesses, and the upward trends in informal employment and in labour demand by hi-tech industries. The main driver of retiree employment is money, the runner-up is unwillingness to drop from the familiar social environment, the desire to keep one’s status in society. More than one expert commented on the growing interest of the elderly in private enterprise and the number of those who have dipped their toes in these waters, as well as the increase in social projects supporting elderly business ideas.

Questions were raised about private social services, the costs and profit margins of social services. The leitmotif shared by nearly all speakers was the need for cross-pollination between the public and private sectors, a dialogue between all stakeholders in social projects and the segment at large.

Society for all Ages included medical sessions where leading experts shared the latest solutions and discoveries in elderly care and improvements in the quality of senior life. The management board of the Russian Association of Gerontologists and Geriatricians held a meeting that discussed progress in the Medpoint education project catering to physicians of various profiles. The academic section of day two had three parts of geriatric mosaic devoted to nutrition, cognitive disorders, chronic pain and other aging-associated diseases and the medical dimension of the long-term care system.

The conference featured masterclasses, workshops and roundtables on various aspects of improving the elderly living standards.

The Society for All Ages National Conference was initiated by the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko to facilitate improvements in the elderly living standards in Russia. The event is a major forum on population ageing and support for senior citizens. The conference is included on the schedule of activities of the national Plan of Action in respect of senior citizens.

The contributions by the participants go a long way towards improving the quality of senior life in Russia at the national level. The final resolution of the 2015 Conference provided a roadmap for the Plan of Action Strategy to Benefit Senior Citizens to 2025 – a white paper on national social policy towards the elderly.

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