Staunton, October 1 – That Moscow is different from the rest of Russia is such a commonplace that many Russians and people in the West fail to recognize just how much, but new data provide a measure that highlights the difference: Muscovites, figures show, live on average six years longer than do residents of other parts of the Russian Federation.
As a result of that difference, there are now 318,901 Muscovites over 80; 34,960 between 90 and 100; and 655 older than 100. That figure has gone up from 480 just five years ago, according to a report from the Svobodnaya Pressa portal today to mark Elderly Day.
Mikhail Yakushin, a professor of gerontology and geriatrics at the Pigorov Russian National Medical Research University, says that Muscovites have a life expectancy of 76 years, much higher than other Russians and roughly equivalent to life expectancy figures in Western Europe
This reflects not only higher incomes in Moscow but also better medical services, better food, and a higher percentage of people there who are engaged in intellectual rather than physical labor, characteristics that more than compensate for the greater stress and more contaminated environment, the doctor says.
He notes that the difference in life expectancy between those engaged in mental work and those doing physical labor has long been the case. “Even in the times of the USSR, the life expectancy of members of the Academy of Sciences was five years more than that of others in the country,” Yakushin says.
But even within Moscow, there are important differences in this regard. Those who live in the central district of the city where incomes are highest have a longer life expectancy than other Muscovites and a far longer one than have residents of the Russian Federation outside the ring road.
The doctor said that the opening of special gerontological services has also led to this difference because there are far more of them relative to the population in Moscow than is the case elsewhere. He said this should become a regular system, but unfortunately, things are moving in the opposite direction: the government recently closed a major geriatric center in the capital itself.
There are now 101 such offices as well as a section of a hospital, and they are staffed by 133 geriatric doctors. In 2013, 67,000 Muscovites availed themselves of their services. Similar facilities are opening elsewhere in Russia although not as quickly or as massively, Svobodnaya Pressa says.
According to Svobodnaya Pressa, there are now approximately three million pensioners in Moscow or one in every four residents, a percentage typical of Russia as a whole. In both places, more than 30 percent of them continue to work, in some cases out of necessity but in others out of a feeling that they feel good enough to make a contribution.
In Russia as in other countries, the portal continues, 60 is the new 50, even though people at the older age are more likely to have many diseases that younger cohorts do not. And that has some important consequences: pension-age Russians today are not like their parents: they have different experiences and expectations. “They simply don’t accept aging” in the same way.
But for many Russian pensioners, especially those beyond the ring road, life is not getting better or more joyous, whatever Kremlin propagandists say. According to a report in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on October 1, the purchasing power of the average Russian pension is now lower than it was at the end of Soviet times.
That means that many elderly Russians cannot purchase the foods or engage in the activities that Moscow doctors say will help them live longer. And for those who don’t live in Moscow, it means that they are less likely to have access to the geriatric specialists who are helping the Muscovites do just that.