New model for care homes and services to elderly people in Russia
How to change public attitudes towards retirement homes and establish a support system for older people
Alexei Mavrin, founder of a network of retirement homes, explains his complementary system of social services
The Opeka [care] network of retirement homes is registered on the national list of social services providers. The network is made up of 14 centres for older people in five areas – metropolitan Moscow, greater Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad region and Chelyabinsk.
Social services business model
Alexei Mavrin’s former classmates prompted him to start thinking about setting up a network of retirement homes. They pointed to the Western model, in which the majority of older people live in homes, whereas there was nothing like that in Russia before the early 2000s.
“After graduating, I started helping older women and men together with people from the volunteering sector. And I often came across the situation where, even though a person appeared to have everything – children, grandchildren, a three-roomed flat – they would still call the ambulance, but it would be just so they could interact with someone, have a grumble, and be heard. So some colleagues and I decided to open a residential home where people wouldn’t need to think up illnesses that they might be suffering from, but instead could just live in peace, interacting with others, being creative and taking exercise,” Alexei explains.
“We deliberately chose the limited liability business structure, as it has more advantages than if we had registered as a not-for-profit organisation. They can’t take out loans, plus it’s practically impossible to attract any investment.”
“We wouldn’t have been able to grow across the whole of Russia without investment. Similarly, it would’ve been impossible to provide good-quality, long-term services without making a profit. It gives us a chance to keep our heads above water. If the company’s profitable, that proves staff and customers see a need for it,” says the director.
Two 60-month interest-free loans – 5 million and 10 million roubles – were provided by the Nashe Budusche [our future] foundation. They covered the renovation of two residential homes and the loan was paid off not long ago.
“It’s a good thing it wasn’t a grant. The money had to be paid back, and that motivates businesspeople to keep earning.”
According to Alexei, you cannot build a social care business around residential homes alone; it has to involve a complementary ecosystem of services as well.
“A residential home has to have a rehabilitation centre, a restaurant and a beauty salon. But for those who want to live in their own flat, domiciliary services are available. Carers visit older residents and can provide live-in care. To monitor carers’ work and keep an eye on the older people, we have developed Smart Care – CCTV that we set up in older people’s houses. We noticed via one of these cameras that, when a carer used to visit an old man, he would be feeling well, but would then start fainting. As it happened, he hadn’t been eating at the time. So that was when our home delivery system was born,” Alexei explains.
There is also an in-house lawyer. He can be consulted on various topics, and helps people access the state benefits they are entitled to.
“The services complement each other. This sort of self-contained process works well for everything to do with social services. One service follows on from another,” says the entrepreneur.
How to get access
The easiest way is to arrange for the social services department to give you an individual care plan. If a person is classed as in need, then they can book a stay at one of the residential homes in the network.
According to representatives from Opeka, if a person is registered for government benefits, they would only be entitled to basic services. Anything they might want in addition can be purchased using their own resources.
All residential homes are designed as an accessible environment so that people can come and go without needing anyone else’s help. The homes have automatic fire alarm systems that immediately send a distress signal to the nearest fire station.
A psychologist, cultural expert, volunteers and trainers all work there, so that the residents can socialise every day, read the papers, do sculpture and painting classes, and maintain their fine motor skills. Musicians and young people’s creative groups often visit the residents.
Five meals a day are served. Each home has an area for prepared meals where dishes are delivered that just need heating up and setting on the table as they are.
Up to three people at once can live in a room, but according to the home’s administration, it all depends on the wishes of the residents. If, while they get used to the new environment, people need special attention and do not want to share their room, a single-occupancy room can be arranged.
Short-term stays are popular for people having their flat renovated, or having an annual medical check‑up or consultant’s appointment. There is also a medical rehabilitation and recovery unit. It takes in patients recovering from hip fractures and the aftereffects of Covid-19 as well as people with chronic heart conditions and dementia. Physiotherapy is offered to support convalescence.
“Of course in Russia, people are not psychologically ready for these sorts of residential homes, in contrast to other countries, for example, where older people move in and just live there. But we are trying to improve quality and change attitudes to these places,” says Alexei.