ACTIVE AGEING INDEX: RUSSIAN STUDY
Demographic changes of past century have caused changes in population structure and as the result there is a sustainable tendency of increasing share of older people. Third and fourth age adults can be described as people with some features, first of all high level of morbidity and mortality, low level of mental health and physical activity. They often need help with routine daily activities. They often feel themselves lonely and helpless. They are very upset because of exclusion and they want to take part in society. These are the main reason for investigation how in can be possible to change the meaning of old age in modern society, solve the ageism problem, enhance active ageing, improve wellbeing of older people.
WHO suggests the following definition: “Active ageing is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age” (WHO, 2002). The main goal of active ageing is “to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for ALL people even they are frail, disabled or need of care”. There are a lot of determinants of active ageing which are similar to national wellbeing measurement: health and social services, behavior, natural environment, social environment, economy, personal attitudes. In this regard we can conclude active ageing concept and wellbeing concept are very close to each other but not identical.
For study and measure active ageing across the world Active Ageing Index (AAI) was developed. In European Union the 2012 year was the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. AAI defines active ageing as “the situation where people continue to participate in the formal labor market as well as engage in other unpaid productive activities such as care provision to family members and volunteering and live healthy, independent and secure lives as they age” (Active Ageing Index, 2012). But methodology of AAI consists of indicators which can be measured on the basis of European Union statistics and it is necessary to develop cross-cultural research to study differences in active ageing across the world. We have studied AAI domains in Russia and at subnational level of Russian Federal Districts to find methodological and real life challenges in the process of evaluating and enhancing wellbeing of old adults in Russia.
There are some data resources which are available to study active ageing and to evaluate Active Ageing Index for Russia. We use AAI methodology and AAI data about completed studies (28 countries), data from Federal State Statistics Service - FSSS (Russia), from European Social Survey (6-2012), Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) Russia Wave 1 (2010). For most of indicators we used data from ESS and GGS because lack of information about active ageing in other global and national databases.
Our research showed that total AAI for Russia accounts for 30,2 points, which corresponds to 22nd rank among 29 countries. Considering the contribution of each domain in total AAI it is possible to resume that independent and secure living (41%) and capacity and enabling environment for active aging (34%) are the most contributing domains.
1. Employment of the elderly people.
Federal State Statistics Service keeps statistics for the employment rates of older generation without considering age and gender groups within the aged population. The data available on ESS 2012 shows that Russia is generally within the predictable trend of aged employment. At the starting point (55 years) the employment rate in Russia is little lower than European mean, but on 65-69 interval is 6.6 percentage points higher than European mean.
According to analysis, the conclusion we came to is that the distinctive feature of modern Russians is their willingness to take risks associated with changing the career trajectory. This readiness varies considerably depending on gender, age, education, professional experience and human health and largely determined internally, made earlier by personal choices.
2. Participation in society.
Social factors are integral components of wellbeing and they are especially important for the elderly. More than 40% of old adults prefer to take part at different social activities.
Importance of social factors is confirmed by willingness and ability to help someone, even when there are significant limitations in elderly activities. Most of them are able and like to care for relatives (children and grandchildren, parents and other relatives). About 3,5% of elders demonstrate a political participation, only 4% of elders, primarily young old adults, take part in some volunteer activities. There are small amount of social communities for elders in Russia and they are less involved in voluntary activities and charity than elders from Ireland, Netherlands or Sweden.
Social factors significantly improve the wellbeing of older adults, so we can discuss social wellbeing as an important component of lifelong wellbeing. Participation domain received 10,1 points for Russia (max. for EU is 25) is distracting but quite predictable for two reasons: low general trust in our society, low trust in politic parties and volunteer organizations, lack of infrastructure for organized volunteer activities. On the other hand, social activity within families (caring for children and older adults) is higher than European mean. In Russia grandparents often substitute kindergartens, thus allowing parents start working after or without taking maternity leave.
3. Independent and secure living of older people.
Unfortunately we could not obtain any data on access to health and dental care for older people in Russia. Neither official statistics by Federal State Statistics Service nor other Russian surveys can provide such data for Russia now. ESS and GGS do not formulate appropriate questions for the respondents as well.
Independent and secure living of older people demonstrates a huge difference between European countries and Russia in some indices of this domain. Compared to Bulgaria and Romania Russia has lower material deprivation level and lower poverty risk (76,2% and 89,9% respectively). It's quite unusual since we often consider Russian elderly as a majority of population living below the poverty line. Compared to other EU countries Russian elderly are far more physically active (39,6% in comparison with European mean of 17,2%). In this index Russia falls behind Sweden (42,6%) and Finland (48,9%) only. Lower level of elderly physical safety (48,1%) determines lower level of personal and institutional trust, which is confirmed by the data of Participation in society domain.
4. Capacity and enabling environment for active ageing .
Capacity of active aging for old adults in Russia is one of the most contributing domain. It corresponds to 16th rank among 29 European countries. The most important element of this domain for Russia is educational attainment which make possible to accumulate and use human capital during many years after retirement. Because of that on 65-69 age interval employment of old persons in Russia is 7.9 percentage points higher than European mean despite the requirements of formal pension system. However there are a lot of difficulties which are appeared when we measured the share of healthy life years in the RLE at age 55 in Russia. This indicator is very important to study positive mood of old persons and public expenditures to health care. But global and Russian databases don’t include this indicator.
Capacity domain received 53,1 points for Russia with considerable contribution of Educational attainment indicator, due to age discrimination at workplace in business and in age-tolerant spheres pensioners still need to be competitive and are motivated to raise qualification
Attempting to assess subnational differences across Russian regions, we found considerable inequality between 8 Federal Districts (Federal Okrugs or FO) in several indices, but very similar contribution of each domain in overall subnational AAI.
In employment index for age group (55-59) we have an outstanding performance of Central FO (71,1), which provides more opportunities for the elderly as the most investment attracting, populated and well-paid positions region. Still, North Caucasian FO with the lowest employment among all the regions (19,4) seems to enjoy the trade-off between less crucial employment and higher mental wellbeing due probably to less-stressed life course. All FOs experience serious decline in employment at 60-64 age group, though, for North Caucasian FO and Siberian FO it is not as dramatic as for the rest of regions.
In participation in society domain for some regions (North Caucasian and Far East FOs) we found a trade-off between employment and caring for the children though it might not be a trade-off, but a need to look after the younger generation due to lack of child-care institutions in these regions. Overall subnational AAI for participation domain varies from the lowest in Siberian FO (7,5) to the highest in Far East FO (14,5), but with the common trend of low voluntary activity and political participation as compared to EU and higher intra-family activity, which still falls short of EU mean.
The same myth-bustering situation we face in the third domain concerning 3.3 index of independent living. Overall independent living (85,25) is even higher that EU mean. Cross-regional differences are considerable from 33,33 in Far East FO (with hard climate and living conditions) to 100 in North-Western FO. Yet, in other indicators of the third domain regions are comparatively equal. Far East FO comes out with high employment and high care for grandchildren which can be combined in non-independent living situation.
In fourth domain of capacity and enabling environment we have two outstanding indices of social connectedness (75,8) and educational attainment of older people (91,1), where all Russian regions are showing much higher value than EU mean. High Ural and North Caucasian FO values for capacity were quite unexpected because Ural is supposed to be ecologically and North Caucasian infrastructure disadvantaged regions.
Some results we have obtained need further analysis, like relatively high overall AAI for Siberian FO (second after Central FO) which derives from high employment and independency due partially to internal migration of younger generation to Central and North-Western FOs. Low physical activity in agricultural South FO may look embarrassing but justified since less effort needed to successful gardening here as compared to Siberia. High social connectedness in Ural and educational attainment in Far East FO were revealed but still need to be explained.
Discussion and conclusion:
The challenge of estimating AAI for Russia faces various methodological problems.
1. Availability of statistical data. A scope of necessary indicators for correct AAI calculation are not available in Russian Federal State Statistics Service databases. A range of proxy indicators may be found for less-specific socio-economic variables like social connectedness or mental well-being, but no appropriate substitution can be found for access to health and dental care. So, we need to incorporate AAI methodology into sociological and statistical research and to some extend we made it our regional Tomsk research.
2.Availability of age and gender disaggregated data. Aggregating data regardless of age and gender seems to be a very common problem with official statistics. Though Federal State Statistics Service collects data on elderly generation, most of it is presented in aggregate form. Other Russian sociological agencies do not provide questionnaires compatible with ESS or AAI.
3.Regional differences. Similar values of subnational AAI gives us a confirmation of flexibility of active ageing process. All the regional differences – economy structure, variety of nationalities, infrastructural gap between the center and periphery – taken into account, gave us no serious regional gaps in overall subnational AAI values. Elderly people easily adapt to the lack of employment opportunities by care to children and grandchildren, which in turn cuts the opportunities for lifelong learning and social connectedness outside the family.
Attempting to estimate AAI for Russia we faced several problems. No appropriate data could be found in national statistical databases. Even embracing proxy indicators obtained from ESS we fail to estimate the following positions for Russia: share of happy life years in the remaining life expectancy at age 55, access to health and dental care. To our opinion, it is necessary to implement AAI methodology in statistics and data collection to ensure comparability of active ageing process between European countries and Russia. Practical use of AAI in Russia could be beneficial for the state policy aimed at rising older adults’ wellbeing while the share of aged people in Russian population is continuously growing and demonstrating the same trend as in European Union.