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Ageing St. Petersburg: there are 1.2 million elderly in the city


This week the world marked the Day of the Elderly. And St. Petersburg had a special reason to pay attention to this subject. Our city is often dubbed as “the city of pensioners”, and that nickname is well justified. Developed and developing countries are often experiencing the so-called demographic ageing. We live better, hence we live longer. But birth rate is falling


Yuriy Zinchuk, host, “Pulse of the city” show: “We value comfort, not larger families – as before. Demographists say we get older from top to bottom. According to international criteria, a population is considered as ageing if the proportion of people over 65 years old exceeds 7% of the population. In St. Petersburg this number reached 15 % on January 1st 2013, and overall stat for Russia is 13%”

Within just 5 years, the average age of a St. Petersburg resident increased from 40.8 in 2005 to 41.3 in 2010. And all those who are 41.3 years old now firmly think that anility is a distant perspective, that is behind some kind of wall and it has nothing to do with the reality.

Our observer Alexey Mikhalev looked beyond this figurative wall and learnt that it is very fragile. In fact, it doesn’t exist at all. A man starts ageing physically at the age of 25, one is even more susceptible to this process between 30 and 40, but the elderly are growing ever more confident. And the future, no matter how strange that may sound, is – to a large extent - in their hands.  

Sochi, Kazan, St. Petersburg. Mountain skiing, wrestling, long jumping. Stanislav Arkhipov started his path of a volunteer in 1994, at the Goodwill Games. Students skewed at a 52-year old man, whom they considered to be old. 20 years on, nobody thinks that – he’s the same volunteer as any other. But a far more experienced one.

Stanislav Arkhipov, volunteer, medical massage trainer, 72 years old: “According to Olympic standards, we must have 30% of senior volunteers. Requirements: obligatory knowledge of English. I also speak Spanish and a little bit of Arabic”

Stanislav wasn’t even aware of the Day of the Elderly. That is despite the day being celebrated for more than 20 years. It was established by the UN General Assembly, which acknowledged the already obvious fact – we are getting older.

Vladimir Khavinson, gerontologist: “Humanity has entered an era of species’ ageing. And there will be more and more elderly with every year”.

In the next few years, the number of the elderly will surpass the number of children. This will happen for the 1st time in the history of the civilization. This is the growth dynamic. In the year 2000, there were 600 million elderly in the world. In 2009 – 737 million. By the middle of the century there will be more than 2 billion of them. St. Petersburg – one of the most aged cities in Russia – will play its part in forming that figure. 

Natalya Chistyakova, demographist: “Anility has a woman’s face. The reason why St. Petersburg is called the city of grandmothers”

St. Petersburg was born at the drop of a hat. It was created by migrants, 300 years on it is still growing thanks to them. In modern day history, women migrants have been more active, according to calculations of 1970-80s.  

Natalya Chistyakova, demographist: “Echo of that migration is an increase in proportion of women among the elderly. And women live longer”. 

The fact that women live longer than men is not news to anyone. Not all, however, know about the shortage of elderly men we’re experiencing. Here, for instance, are the stats for 3 age groups: from 70 to 79 years old – there are twice more women than men; from 80 to 84 years old – there are three times more women than men; over 85 years old – there are 5 times more women than men. Their longevity is influenced not by their financial welfare, and most certainly not by the climate.

Vladimir Khavinson, gerontologist: “The quality of upbringing, education and culture – this influences longevity”.

When we say “quality of culture”, we also mean the culture of preserving one’s health. Many developed countries have established a concept of “third age”. Millions of elderly tourists are actively globe-trotting, being safe in the knowledge – the most interesting things in life start after 60.

Natalya Evdokimova, secretary of the human rights council of St. Petersburg: “ If you feel that anility is your punishment – stay at your sofa with a newspaper. That’s one scenario. But there’s another one: people who lead an active lifestyle don’t fell old and live longer”.

We tend to think that ageing is unattractive. That it brings excessive weight (or, to the contrary, excessive angularity), inability and diseases. But the world suggests other trends. Skydiving, alpinism, rafting – youths are no longer monopolists in extreme sports.

Alexey Mikhalev, correspondent: “Moreover, in Japan one elderly gentleman decided to radically change his life. Aged 65 he became a porn star. And he’s been doing it for 11 years. It may be quite a dubious occupation from the morality point of view. But it’s a vivid example of how sex is ageing too – whilst before it had always been considered a thing of the younger”.

So to speak, there is no proof that ageing diminishes one’s intellectual skills. Wisdom is often regarded as an earned capital. 

And that makes no difference whether you’re a volunteer or a massage trainer. Stanislav Arkhipov, as long as we’ve mentioned it, sees his mission in passing that vast experience. He could have been spending his time playing dominoes with his neighbors, but there’s work to be done in the Olympic host city. 

Stanislav Arkhipov, volunteer, medical massage trainer, 72 years old: “That’s what i want, and I feel at ease with this. Every time I return from Sochi, people tell me – you look younger. Indeed, I feel a totally different man”

Formally speaking, any man over the age of 60 is considered as the elderly. But every human being has his/her very own ageing pattern. The truth is that there are more than 1.2 million elderly in St. Petersburg – that’s a quarter of the total populace. By the middle of the century, they will amount to half of the city. Those who think their youth would last forever should keep that in mind. 

Correspondent: Alexey Mikhalev