The elderly people of post-Soviet Ukraine: medical, social, and economic challenges

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Dec;53(12):2216-20

Over the past 14 years, since Ukraine became an independent nation, the country has made major strides toward achieving political and economic reforms, exemplified by the recent populist uprising for fair and free elections. Despite these successes, many challenges still lie ahead, particularly in the area of health care for older people. The average life expectancy in Ukraine is only 67 years, and those who achieve old age often live in poverty. Women are expected to retire from their professions at age 55 and men at 60. Pensions are so low that retirees are often forced to take laborious jobs on the streets. Because of deficiencies in medical education, deteriorating hospital facilities, a lack of modern medications and supplies, and inadequate physician payment mechanisms that breed corruption, many elderly people mistrust the medical system and often turn to folk medicines and Eastern medical practices to treat their illnesses. By understanding the expectations and former medical practices of elderly patients who have emigrated from Ukraine, Western physicians will be better able to meet their emotional and medical needs.

Hebrew SeniorLife Research and Training Institute, Division of Gerontology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 12131, USA. Lipsitz@mail.hrca.harvard.edu

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