Support Global Action on Aging!



Russia: Making Ends Meet Not an Easy Task

for Elderly

By Vladislav Schnitzer

The Moscow Times, May 19, 2003

Moscow - These are not the best of times for Russian pensioners, especially those who have been retired for some time. Older pensioners can't help comparing their current plight with the Soviet era, when a full pension of 132 rubles paid the bills with enough left over to help supplement their grandchildren's student stipends.

And that was small potatoes compared to the pensions paid to retirees from the military, scientific research institutes, universities and other institutions of higher learning. A professor friend of mine received 160 rubles per month, which more than allowed him to keep up appearances.

There's no point in discussing how pensioners live on average. So much depends on personality, acquired habits, health, social status, apartment, family relations and so on. Trying to describe the living conditions of a hypothetical pensioner is no more useful than determining the average temperature of the patients in a hospital.

But it is possible to identify certain general tendencies in the welfare of our seniors. First of all, the government's efforts to improve our standard of living over the past two years have not been terribly successful. The rising cost of food, housing, services and medicine has far outpaced supplements to indexed pensions.

I talk with lots of elderly people. Those who retired recently, who are still in good health and are able to earn a little extra on the side, are doing fairly well on the whole. But those over 70, whose pension is their only source of income, struggle just to survive. They eat simply and try to cut costs on everything from electricity to shoes.

I know an 83-year-old woman, a group-two invalid who lives on her own. She retired 25 years ago after a long career as an engineer. She receives a pension of 2,970 rubles ($95.50) per month and a 120 ruble ($3.86) subsidy from the city of Moscow. She spends about 500 rubles per month on housing and utilities. Once every two months she receives a care package of food worth 300 rubles from a local charity.

All of her remaining money goes for food and medicine. She is diabetic, and therefore has to buy certain special items which inevitably cost extra. Her fructose, for example, costs 112 rubles per kilogram. She spends nothing on books or entertainment. Shoes and clothing she buys in second-hand shops.

She is dismissive of schemes under which people swap their apartments for a spot in a full-service retirement home. Too often the insurance companies that make these offers fail to live up to their end of the bargain. She does not consider herself needy, because she has adapted to her new conditions.

But she is the exception.

Copyright 2002 Global Action on Aging
Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us