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Older Russian women. Family role of Russian grandmother.

Pension and employment for women of older age in Russia. Social welfare of senior citizens. Lifestyle of Russian babushkas.

Russian babushka. A Russian Woman in her eighties.

Do Russian woman age fast? Middle-aged and senior women in Russia.

The demographers are alarmed that Russia is becoming a country of aged women. Nowadays elderly people constitute over 20 percent of the population and people over 65 years - more than 17 percent of the population. This term comprises persons of the retirement age - women older than 55 and men older than 60.

Pay attention that the boundary between middle age and old age in Russian society is higher contrasted the USA and Western Europe, where the age of 65 is traditionally considered the beginning of the senior years. The demographic pyramid consists of 23 % older males. The huge 72 % are the women. Russian women tend to outlive their male countrymen by quite a few years.

Over 21 million of older Russian women make an important part of the society and are affectionately called babushkas. This russianism is now understood in many languages along with the words pogrom, sputnik, borcsh, etc. The word babushka can hardly be translated because of the unique character of the Russian female archetype of the older woman. It includes the mildness and power, wisdom and naivety.

The image of Russian babushkas as hearth-keepers and caring nannies are liricized in the national literature and poetry. And at the same time they are ill treated by the society at times and put at the disadvantage by the government.

Family role

Russian granddaudhter and her grandmother study a notebook computer

Babushkas are the huge part of Russian national culture and its dearest and respected part. Her contribution to the family is immense. Real family roles of the modern Russian babushkas are dependent on the symbol of babushka in Russian cultural tradition. Stamina, care and sacrifice are the essential components of this symbol. Many children who were born in Soviet (or post-Soviet) country never had a nanny and were raised by the grandmothers. Still since almost all mothers have to return to work when the child is 1-3 years old, the kids have to be put in the nursery or left with someone from the family. This special someone is usually a grand-mother. Quite often a grandmother-to-be would retire when her first grand-child is born. So she will be the one to spoil, teach, and congratulate the first. The first fairy tales are told by a grandmother and the most delicious borsch and piroshky are tried at her kitchen. Taking to school and additional lessons, checking homework and making new year costumes, teaching to read, swim and play chess is what grandmothers are often relied on for.

The joint families are characteristic for the Russian society mainly due to economic reasons. Most of older Russian women still live with their children and grandchildren and are not only nannies but also home help. Working grandmothers often take part care of the grand children and help the children financially. It would be wrong to say that retired women totally devote their time to raising grandchildren. Many finally obtain more time and freedom for themselves since the children have grown up. Middle-aged women prefer to travel or explore things they missed before. Others continue to work and even have own business, however the career perspectives for the older women in Russia are very limited.

Retired women employment and pension.

Modern day stereotype outcasts middle-aged women and women of pre-retirement age from the job market. The age discrimination, especially for women is epidemic. The job ads with 35/45/50 age limit are regular. Therefore middle aged women applicants have limited access to good careers. The retirement age is quite often taken as the end of the professional career. The exception is the low-paid state jobs, like teachers, tutors in preschools, medical workers, police, civil servants, etc. Working after retirement is essential for many women.

According to the Pension Fund the average retirement pension in Russia is 8498 rubles ($ 269 ) by the end of 2011. The average social pension in Russia is 5214 rubles ($165,11). Social pension in Russia is the pension set for the disabled and elderly people who, for whatever reason have not earned retirement pension. The problem for women retirees is compounded by the fact that retirement pensions are higher for men of retirement age than for women. Low employment perspectives and low pension makes Russian women the weakest social and economic strata.

Some retired elderly women choose to do government jobs in public places, which lets them earn something like twice more than if they were only on their pension. So you will see them keeping the metro, sitting in the museums, cleaning the railways, selling tickets. Others offer apartment rent, do part time non-official jobs as nannies, cleaners and caretakers, grow greens, veg and flowers or pick mushrooms for sale. Most concierges, elevator operators, public transport conductors are older Russian women.

Social care

Aside from pensions, women receive other retirement social welfare that is gradually cut while politicians balance the country budget. The "lucky ones" – are war veterans, invalids and "heroes" of the Soviet Union and Russia. These categories are very limited and the people receive subsidized housing monthly payments financed by the federal government The compensations to the others are paid from the local budgets and vary in different regions. Some public transport is free or partially free for the pensioners in most areas. The special transport or social cards are distributed to ensure a retired can use a subway or a bus. This benefit is being cut as well and the mass protests of retired people have taken place recently. Some benefits are available in medical care and utility payments, but the access to them is often associated with beurocratic obstacles. There are pensioner’s discounts for museum entry fees, airfare and drug stores. The last two ones are determined by the marketing policy of the business.

A happy old Russian woman with her daughter

The state run geriatric homes are available, yet the waitlist is huge. They accept the senior people that need care and have no relatives to perform this task. 2/3 of the pension is usually taken as the fee for care taking service. The attitude to municipal homes for the elderly is generally very negative due to state underfunding and frequent information in the news about miserable conditions and personnel attitude to the older people. 100% of Russian men and 50% of Russian women hate the idea of staying in the pensioner's house when they become old and need daily care. The average age of people living in geriatric home is 85 y.o.

A number of privately run nurseries for the elderly people charge 1500-2000 rubles ($47-63) per day and are considered to provide better caretaking conditions. Some require donating apartment for the room in senior people complex and medical care. Yet the idea still remains fearful for many. Putting one’s elderly to the retirement home is a painful issue in many societies. Russias mainstream opinion about those whose parents live in retirement home is far from supportive. The way it is viewed here is - they took care of you for the first 20 years of your life, so you should not even have second thoughts about taking care of them when they need it. It is very expensive to hire full time caregivers so there are the younger women in the family who usually manage these tasks along with regular work and family responsibilities. For Russian old-age population younger family members and children are those who they expect to lean on when and if they experience age-related problems and health starts to fail.

Russian elderly also face difficulties with getting medical assistance. Prophylactic medical services, as well as senior people healthcare and medicine supplies are very limited in fact. No wonder difference between Russia and the West is that in Russia old age is considered to be a time of loss and reminiscence, whereas in the West it's a time for new possibilities.

Life style and attitude to aging

It is not only the social and medical and limited financial possibilities that mould the attitude to aging in Russia. The attitudes towards old age are still determined by archaic views (The elderly as bearers of the tribe’s wisdom should pass their knowledge on to the young, and then pass away). A great number of Russian older people that are still alive and kicking and can successfully continue professional life fall under the stereotype “old-unnecessary”. Stereotyped notions of older age are reproduced both in social policy, and in kitchen-sink and mass culture, thereby adversely affecting the personal values and self-esteem of elderly people. Fear of ageing is what characteristic for Russian mentality. The senior citizens are mostly worried by their state of health. The second position is taken by low income; the third most serious problem is social isolation and loneliness, connected with different life expectancy of men and women. Regrettably most of elderly women are divorced or widowed.

Senior Russian woman with her daughter online shopping using a credit card

Millions of Russia's elderly are forced to rely on their own strength and good spirits while they still have them. Elderly women remain socially active. They take part in political actions and cultural events. Concerts, holidays, contests, lectures, funded by the state, local authorities or charitable organizations quite often take place in the cities. Some older women become the members of handmade clubs, local choruses, history-lovers societies seeking comfort and companionship as well as doing things they love.

Buranovio babushkas group of folk singers from Russia’s Udmurt Republic are world known already. They sing Beatles songs and other popular rock music, which they translate into their language. Buranovio babushkas are a marvelous example of how women remain life loving and optimistic despite the age –associated problems and hard life.

Women in Russian try to stay fit and active at any age and this is not limited by digging at the dacha. Do not be surprised to see older women walk or jog at the school stadium near the apartments block or have regular walks outside the city. While most of their income is spent on housing bills, medicine and food, women save up to buy some inexpensive clothes and cosmetics and manage to look elegant. They are the most regular visitors of the libraries and keep up with current news. The growing number of women of older age learn computers and explore IT technologies to watch movies, shop online, download books, and which is more important to stay in touch with grown kids and grandchildren living in other places.

Appearance and aging

There is a wide spread myth that Russian women do not hold their age well after 40. Russian girls are stunning but after the age of 35 the aging accelerates. It can’t be true for all Russian women of course. Everyone ages differently depending on the life style and genetics. The age stereotype takes place . Young people are full of optimism. And while growing older tend to look more 'hardened'. Which is more important the fast facial ageing of Russian woman is explained by the fact that they rarely received hormone replacement therapy. Only 1% of women in Russia compared to 55% of British and 80% of American women take the pills to balance bioidentical hormones. The reasons are the fear of cancer and low awareness, even though various pills are available at the Russian medicine market. The tendency is changing and more women in Russia undergo the hormone replacement therapy now. Unlike the western counterparts Russian females are usually slimmer and keep better shape at the same age because of exercises, walks and avoiding fast food and overeating. In general Russian women show low concern of their health being often absorbed by the family and work.

Russian babushkas are often approached anecdotic by western press and foreign observers. They draw a portrait of an old woman pushing in a local transport or collecting empty bottles in a park. A deep-wrinkled face, sometimes ridiculous clothes and sad eyes add to the image. A generations that survived the nightmares of Second World War and post war years hard work and famine, collapse of the Soviet State and painful transition to the market economy are now the weakest part of Russian society often considered to be a burden to the economy. So it is the society that has to be made responsible for their present day misery and lack of respect.

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