Once, a student of the Faculty of Philology, Elizaveta Oleskina, went with her classmates to the Russian outback - to collect folklore stories of the inhabitants of one of the local villages. She returned from this trip with plans: to create a volunteer movement that will help the elderly. Today, 11 years later, Old Age in Joy is a large charitable foundation that not only provides assistance to those who need it, but also explains to society what it is like to be old. When talking about the everyday life of the fund and its initiatives, Elizabeth usually smiles quietly, now and then recalling stories from her recent trips.
- What do you think has changed in society during the time the foundation exists? Has it come to understand and accept the topics and issues you are dealing with?
- During the time that "Old Age in Joy" exists, a lot has changed. Including our own approach. Our history as a volunteer movement and foundation began with the fact that we saw specific elderly people who needed help and wanted to help them. Now we are engaged not only in this targeted assistance here and now, but also in building a whole system, already at the state level. And we want to make sure that the need for some of the areas that we are working on now as a charitable foundation would simply disappear. So that any person can get the minimum, which in the 21st century must be guaranteed by the state.
The very fact that our foundation has existed for so long and every year expands its work confirms that the topic of old age is gradually becoming more important for society. And for us, this is an indicator of the gradual "maturation" of society as a civil society. On the one hand, we begin to think about ourselves, about what our own old age will be like. On the other hand, we begin to think about others. We have come to consider the topic of old age not as something alien or painful, but as a part of our common reality, which will happen to our parents, ourselves, and then to our children - and this is also important. Therefore, it is necessary to fine-tune the normal system of support for a decent life in old age, when naturally there are limitations, specific needs associated with age.
Can you imagine that, for example, in a nursery or a maternity hospital in winter, they would not flood or turn on the light during the operation? It's impossible. Lonely, abandoned, useless old age should also seem impossible to our society. This is a question for us: if everything is changing so slowly, then we as a society are slowly ripening. But still we are ripening.
- That is, we can say that we are growing up?
-Yes, because, firstly, people began to relate to the life of society more consciously. Second, many cities already have basic wealth. Let's just say that the bottom rungs of Maslow's pyramid of needs are filled, so we start thinking about others. And of course, demography starts to work. Life is getting longer, and there are so many elderly people that they can no longer be ignored. Now our main problem is related to the fact that the system is not ready: the state does not provide almost any services. Well, let's say a conditional billionaire wants to take his elderly parents abroad and has such an opportunity. And they want to stay here, refuse to leave their city X. But there are no services in the city. And although this billionaire is ready to pay a lot of money, it will not help in any way - the system does not work as a service yet, so,how it works around the world. And either we will do it - we will fix it, and everyone will live in peace and know that old age for them and their loved ones will be provided with the necessary help, or everyone who can will go abroad, and those who cannot will be left alone with problems.
Life is getting longer and there are so many elderly people that they can no longer be ignored
- How do you feel about the fact that many - if we talk about helping the elderly - are motivated not only by awareness, but also by pity?
-This is actually a difficult question. The Old Age in Joy Foundation began precisely by feeling sorry for my grandmother. But a woman who is 80 years old does not want to be a "grandmother", she wants to be Adelaide Petrovna, and she does not really like being sorry for her. There is a subtle point here. We ourselves very often, when talking about our wards, call them grandmothers and grandfathers. Because for us, our volunteers, this is always a very personal story, these people become close and dear to us. That is, we arrived, saw a man, sat in an embrace for two hours, roared, chatted, and an elderly woman says to me - a granddaughter, and I to her - a grandmother, dear. In this context, this is correct, this is kinship. And to call everyone in a row “cute grandmothers” is like with cats: post photos of cute kittens and lovely grandmothers. You can't depersonalize people. And we, as a foundation, are trying to be very careful with this. If grandmother means "my dear person" - please. And if you just need to collect money for lonely elderly people for New Year's gifts, then in this context, what is the appeal of a “grandmother”? This is obviously some kind of disrespectful attitude towards those whom we urge to respect.
Surprisingly, one of the motivations of those who come to help is to begin to live more fully, to feel life, because you can understand how happy you are, firstly, when you share this happiness, and secondly, when you see how people live in a much more difficult situation and how happy they are in it. And you think: "Damn it, I only have a hundred times more, and here I am worried that I have an overload or some difficulties at work." And you begin to frantically correct this coordinate system in yourself. This is not shock therapy, it is just our strong disconnection from reality, when it seems to us that we are the most overwhelmed and most unhappy.
© Georgy Kardava
- How do volunteers or other fund assistants react when their coordinate system starts to change? Do you notice these changes in them?
- When our volunteers or employees of the company that helps us go, for example, to plant trees at a nursing home or make a chicken coop for an elderly woman in the village, at this moment they are simply, forgive me, stunned by the fact that the reality is actually different and that their almost incubatory reality is not the only reality, but that they are unhappy, rather their corral worth fighting against. They see that an elderly lying woman is trying to help them, to treat them with candy, and to the question "How are you?" replies: “It's very good, now the sun is shining, I feel this warmth and am happy. And when there is no sun, my bones ache, I think: well, probably the Lord God will send me death. " And at this moment people are usually just covered, because you realize that you don't notice all this at all.
- Was it like that with you too?
- Of course. For example, you complain to such a woman that you are tired, and she says: “I understand, daughter, after the war we dragged a trolley with coal, unloaded coal, fell trees, oh how hard it was, I understand all this, hold on, my good. " And at this moment I think: "I have a different reality at all, I get tired of sitting and pressing the keys or running around Moscow." And I understand that I do not live even a tenth of the life that my own grandmother, great-grandmother, great-grandfather and elderly people who are now over 80 lived in. And after that you want to come to her again and again to understand that you are in you go right side. They give you as much as you give them. And you are helping yourself in order to live a full life.
And you always become a witness to a variety of stories, including love stories. (Laughs.) For example, a woman met a man in a pottery workshop, which we opened in a nursing home. And now she is eager to go there, because they live in different buildings. Both are in wheelchairs, our staff drives them because they have dates there. They pretend that they are going to classes and, in general, are only interested in them, but in fact under the table they give each other signs. Everything here is so fun and good that it does not fit in my head that in the 21st century this is a miracle, and not a normal reality, when people do not lie in wards for years, when they do not eat Doshirak dry at home, because they cannot reach the teapot … Therefore, I really want to be supported financially: if we do not have money, we simply will not be able to help,including pay for the work of nannies. Over the past year, 40 of our bedridden elderly people got up. That is, they began to deal with them, they have now ceased to be prisoners of chambers and rooms. This is a huge happiness, isn't it?
- As a foundation, you do not only help nursing homes, but also at home?
- At first, we dealt with nursing homes, so we are always associated with a foundation that helps nursing homes, but over the past three years we have been paying a lot of attention to helping at home. An elderly person can live where he wants and should receive help where he lives: at home, in a hospital, in a nursing home - anywhere. And this is very important. For this we have the program "Happiness to live at home", within the framework of which we pay for medical and social patronage services for the elderly who stood in line at the boarding school, but least of all wanted to go there. Now, if by some miracle we find resources and funds, we will be able to organize day centers so that the elderly live at home, and spend the day not within four walls, but go to such a leisure center.
- Often in their interviews, trustees and founders of charitable foundations say that it is much easier to raise money to help children than to help adults. Do you notice this when you work? Can you agree with this?
-At first, society and children did not notice. The situation has changed over the past 10 years. And what is happening now with the topic of old age, happened then with children. I hope that in another 10 years the situation for the elderly will change and the situation will even out. Treating a child can be insanely expensive, but at the same time it is life, so it is impossible to measure everything with money, and people understand this. As for the elderly, this is not even treatment or salvation. This is the maintenance of a normal, dignified, full-fledged life for people who, due to their age, are limited in their capabilities. It's harder to understand that you need help here. But it’s impossible to allow people not to eat hot soup for years, because a social worker who comes twice a week does not have time to cook it. A person remains a whole person with a soul from childhood to old age, so everyone should have help.
© Georgy Kardava
- In our recent conversation with Lida Moniava, in relation to the children's hospice, the phrase was said that it is not companies who help, but people who transfer 100, 200 rubles. What is the situation with the Old Age to Joy Foundation?
- Together with Lida, we fed the homeless in the immemorial years. (Smiles.) We also have a very large segment that we receive from caring people, and for us this is the most stable help. I'm talking about regular donations, when a person subscribes to 100, 300, 500 rubles a month, and we know for sure that we can count on this money, that we will pay the salary to care assistants. For me it is infinitely important - I am responsible for ensuring that these people work and receive payment for their labor. Companies also donate from time to time, and this can be a big, but one-time help. And with this money, we can buy a lot, rectify the situation in a particular nursing home, but we do not know when we will have such support next time and whether it will be in principle.
We need 6.5 million a month to pay for our nannies. Plus care products, consumables, medicines - another one and a half, at least. Therefore, the fact that people support us indicates that it is important for them. But companies, too, are made up of people, so it often happens that employees collect money in the office, and then they themselves leave as volunteers. Sometimes it happens that money comes on behalf of the company, and then it turns out that colleagues have been throwing off their salaries for several months. They went, saw, they wanted to change their lives in this particular institution and for these particular people in a reality that seems impossible to them. And very often after that, the company itself pulls up and says: let's take patronage over this nursing home or over this area where elderly people live in their own houses with a sloping roof. In general, it is important to say that we offer very different types of assistance, not only material assistance.
- For instance?
-You can send letters, correspond with elderly people - this is already a great joy when grandmother Masha, who has her 100th birthday, will receive 10 greeting cards from different cities or even countries. You can collect gifts, usefulness, sweets. We come, the elderly are used to bringing small sweet gifts, but we have no sweets at all lately. We have to somehow get out, literally divide one candy. It’s very sad. The same endless diapers and diapers that are always needed. And I understand that this is a breakthrough that will never end, because they are needed and needed. But so far, kind people are saving, who bring sweets, diapers, various cleaning products to the warehouse - in general, everything that is needed to make the life of people at home and in the institution a little easier, the work of staff. And we urge companies to come up with joint promotions and subbotniks, for example, when they, instead of having a good time in some club, come out with us, plant something, paint something, make a common tea party. By the way, as practice shows, after that the employees become much more united than after even the most expensive party.
For any person there is an opportunity to help the way he wants and can. Design students, for example, are helping to paint rooms to turn into beautiful rooms. The Barber College regularly hosts beauty days at home or in a nursing home. In general, we are not so much about money as about a decent life and attitude. But still, you can't go without money either. Paying for the work of another person - a nanny and a caregiver - is the most difficult thing.
A person remains a whole person with a soul from childhood to old age, so everyone should have help
- Can we say that elderly people have now become part of a common agenda? For example, even if we take the world of fashion: the Oldushka agency has appeared in Russia, all of whose models are over 50 years old.
- Absolutely, the topic of old age has ceased to be hushed up. The changes are slow, but such sprouts appear. And here it is important to remember that older people want, have the right and should be able to remain active members of society: to study, travel, engage in self-education, work. Do whatever they want, including becoming models, teaching, starting their own companies. And here society must really accept them, which is happening now, create all the necessary infrastructure for this. This is done because everyone is slowly aging, including those who are in charge of the processes. And they understand that they want to stay active longer themselves. And for this they need to change the system.
- How much is the understanding of old age changing, in your opinion? For example, what do you think the generation of today's 30-year-olds will be like in old age? Will we have any other requests, considering that we are used to a different life?
- Those who are getting old now have completely different needs and expectations. Those whom I am talking about, whom we are now helping, are the oldest generation - those who are deeply over 80 or 70. In big cities, perceptions are changing even for older generations. The understanding comes that you can live differently, stay active longer. The situation is different in regions where civilization is reaching more slowly. Life there is in a sense more patriarchal. Of course, by the time today's 30-year-olds get old, the services I'm talking about must appear. At our trainings, they like to show the film "1 + 1": its paralyzed hero, even though he cannot do anything himself, lives a full life. It doesn't matter if a person is rich or poor, he should still be able not to lie down, not vegetate, but to remain in society at any age, all his life.
- By the way, about the cinema. Do you follow how the topic of old age is covered in films?
- I really like that films began to appear where the image of old age is not repulsive, where older people have the right to life, make friends, get married. Where they are not only dependents, but they themselves create reality. Unfortunately, these are still rather foreign examples, here is the same "Trainee" with Robert De Niro. And even though we are not filming ourselves yet, but watching, this suggests that reality is slowly becoming different. The kind we want.>