Growing old disgracefully

I seldom think about my old age. I assume that I won’t live to see it. On the rare occasions that the thought does flit across my mind, I picture myself as tiny and white-haired, more gumption than gummy. In my mind’s eye, I’m sitting on my porch, brandishing a gnarled stick at the neighbourhood kids, while chortling to myself and sipping my mid-morning brandy. I may even take up pipe-smoking.

However, on the off chance that I do see old age and decide to spend my golden years in Latvia, I may have to rethink this vision of Linda Ol’Lady.

According to recent research by Global AgeWatch, Sweden is ranked the number one country to grow old in. My curiosity being what it is, I had to have a gander and see where Ireland and Latvia came in. Ah yes, there’s Ireland at a semi-respectable number 12 and Latvia is… (scroll, scroll, next page, scroll) number 45 – just ahead of Bolivia.

My vision has now shifted slightly to me standing outside Central Station with all of my worldly possessions in two bags, ranting at total strangers.

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You might think I’m exaggerating, but bear with me.

Some bright spark (or more likely, committee of bright sparks) has decided that the absolute minimum amount needed to survive in Latvia (iztikas minimums) is 178.85 lats (255 euro) per month. And the State will generously provide you with a pension of 180.83 lats.  So, with your survival assured, you’ll still have a whopping 1.98 lats left over, just for yourself. (Would that cover a brandy?)

With this in mind, it pays to try to keep your spouse or partner alive for as long as possible – it doesn’t matter if you can’t stand the sight of them. Just think of the worlds that will open up to you when, at the end of the month, you’ve got 3.96 lats left over… Let’s get this party started!

If you’re the kind of person who ‘aaaaaaahs’ over cute little old couples, walking along hand in hand, Latvia is not the country for you. I’ve been here for 3 years and I’ve yet to see one. But then, if you’ve got less than 4 lats a month to play with, I guess it’s not overly surprising. Going out for an afternoon stroll and a cup of tea and a cake probably aren’t your main priorities.

Actually, you don’t see that many old men here at all. The average life expectancy for a man is only 69 years old. The women don’t die of a broken heart shortly afterwards (they’ve probably seen a few husbands off at this stage); they more than likely die of being downright broke around 9 years later.

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But don’t worry, there are always options to make some extra cash. Even as a pensioner. If you’re really lucky, you can supplement your pension by an extra hundred lats or so. This will involve getting up at the crack of dawn, clearing leaves and cleaning streets so that tourists can exclaim ‘My, it’s so clean!’, as they spend more than your entire pension on one dinner.

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On top of this, you’ll also get free public transport. Unfortunately, as you’ll probably be living on the 15th floor of a block of flats in the middle of nowhere, you’ll have to make your own way down the stairs before you can take advantage of it.

But if you do make it, maybe you should see if that free transport card can get you all the way to Sweden.

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Latvia, Old age, Social Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

105 Responses to Growing old disgracefully

  1. MJB says:

    Gurl, your ignorance is just breathtaking. By the time you’ll grow old, Latvia will be a much a better place to live than Ireland. Seeing the growing rate of third-world citizens taking abode in IE and doing nothing but multiplying while living from social benefits paid for by hard working Latvians and other migrants from the Eastern Europe, bearing in mind that IE used to be Europe’s poorhouse just a couple decades ago, given the famine that made the ginger gene spread around the world, considering the drinking habits of the Irish and the poor health services, you have to be blind to not see a better future in Latvia.

    • Keep dreaming. The ship is sinking already. So better leave Latvia while you are able to do it.

      • MJB says:

        Daila Jaudzema, I hope your name is Daila and you didn’t decide to call yourself Daiļā, I don’t live in Latvia right now, but i know that I will come back when the time is right. Latvia will be one of richest EU member states at that time. Mind my words.

      • Yes, that is my name and I am not hiding my identity unlike you. My suggestions are sort out your attitude issues and learn some good manners and one more-as I said, keep dreaming 🙂

      • MJB says:

        If anybody, it should be you to have to shut your mouth, Daiļā. I have a life, unlike you, so i dont have to upload mu pics to dating sites. havent seen your pics, but i bet you don’t deserve the name. More like “ugly”.

      • Expat Eye says:

        She’s entitled to her opinion, just the same as you are. Calling people you’ve never met ‘ugly’ is just childish.

      • It is not even flattering your googling on my profile 🙂 Go on, check once more on the dating sites or “should of gone to specsavers”
        Get a real life, keyboard warrior, stop posting irrelevant notes to the subject. You have posted lots of rubbish already.
        Sorry Linda 😦

      • Expat Eye says:

        No problem! And certainly no need to apologise for standing up for yourself! 🙂

    • MJB says:

      How come I am not surprised about the the ugly Irish girl shitting on Latvia, defending an even uglier Latvian girl living in Ireland? Go back to where belong, to the green island of ugly people. Daiļā, instead of shitting of country where your parents haven’t properly worked, keep sending them money from Ireland. Collaborationists should not get any pension at all. They should be left alone to die without any pension at all.

    • MJB says:

      Dailajaudzema, I’m glad our feelings are mutual.

  2. Very nicely written, although for a Latvian it might sound a bit harsh, but then again we must not forget that, truth is always bitter. I myself have been in Riga for more than one year now. Got a residence permit by investing in the real estate program. Since I didn’t know any Latvian or Russian I’d spend my days wandering through the city like tourist and in today’s date there is not one place that I have not been to. Later in the summer I started working at a tennis center in Riga(as I am a tennis player) and my mode of transport was a bicycle(so even more time on the streets) and in all these excursions and travels to my tennis center, what I saw and have been seeing is quite sad. I mean being poor is one thing, but being poor and lonely and uncared for and unloved by anybody is something way too much for anyone to handle!

    In India we have a lot of poverty too and lots of people are way poorer than these old guys, but because there exists a joint family system and so atleast there’s someone you can talk to and spend some time with. It just breaks my heart to see old people all alone here and just walking by themselves, wondering what tomorrow has in store for them.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi VJ, thank you for your comment. I agree that it is quite heart-breaking. They seem to be like a forgotten generation. I was talking to one of my students about this yesterday actually. He was saying that some of these old people might even be helping out an unemployed son/daughter from this meagre pension as well. Can you imagine? It’s bad enough for one person – but 2 or 3??? But of course, Latvians never protest, never complain – except to each other in bars etc. so it’s unlikely that anything will change any time soon. That’s why I wrote this – trying to get some people fired up about it but it seems that nobody cares enough to actually do anything. Linda.

  3. linnetmoss says:

    Definitely go for the pipe!

  4. Pecora Nera says:

    Wow Italy is 27… which is amazing because Italy is full of old biddies using bicycles to scare poor car drivers.

  5. Ummm hello! Germany is number 3! Yes, I realize it’s cold here, but only 8 months out of the year! 😉

  6. mikemajor9 says:

    Of course I had to look up where my country – Canada – fell on the list – we’re #5 – so obviously you should move the hell away from Latvia and come die here instead. Because one winter here and the cold will almost certainly kill you 🙂 (kidding, it’s not THAT cold… okay maybe it is but just wear a parka or something and you’ll be fine)

    • Expat Eye says:

      #5 – oooh, aren’t you fancy with your free healthcare and your happy old people 😉 Maybe I will come die there! I’ve only been to Toronto – I was there for TIFF a few years ago!

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Sweet – during TIFF was definitely a great time to visit T.O. – tons of A-list stars come around these days and some unbelievable films obviously. I’ve been around the country a fair bit – depending on your tastes would also highly recommend Vancouver (cool West Coast vibe) and Banff (scenery and skiing) – Montreal and Quebec City (food, fashion and history) and Halifax (cool East Coast vibe).

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, TIFF was fantastic! I was there the year Slumdog and JCVD came out – saw Danny Boyle and the cast interviewed. Amazing experience! I’d love to travel around a bit more – I’ve heard great things about Vancouver as well. Need to start saving my lats 😉

  7. yeah, that’s why I don’t even think about growing old – no old Asta on a porch yelling at some neighbor kids in my thoughts at all. Maybe if I don’t go there, I won’t get old or something 😉 It’s not a very pleasant topic at all, and since pension system is under constant reform for a long time now, and every time is getting worse and worse, I now could say that the only way for a pension plan which could work is to start stashing every extra penny I have under my mattress just in case. What if there is no extra penny? In that case I think I’lll just have to learn to play an accordion or something

    • Expat Eye says:

      Or dance 😉 Lithuania was even further down the list. Maybe you should move here!

      • well, it’s one of the options 🙂 and if you’re not moving to Sweden by then maybe we can live on your extra lat plus my extra litas. That could make a fun party of two old ladies. And I’d better learn to play some instrument than dance. I might even succeed so much that people would start giving me money just to make me stop playing on their nerves with my music or something LOL

  8. bevchen says:

    Aww, poor old ladies. My grandma has lived alone for 22 years, and she now has dementia. She’s terrified of being put in a home though, so my mum goes over every day and also has a home carer come in for her. The way things are going, I won’t have any kids to do that for me. I think I’ll join the death by cake brigade…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Aw, your poor gran – my late granny was like that. The other one is 92 now and in and out of hospice care. She’s like Lazarus 😉
      Cake all round I say!

  9. 1WriteWay says:

    I think you need to (eventually) get yourself to Sweden or some country in the top ten (ok, that leaves off Ireland) because you will see old age and you will rock! Really, Linda, you’ve got enough piss and vinegar in you to make to 100. My girlfriends and I have talked about setting up house together when our spouses are dead and buried, since statistically, they are likely to die sooner than us and we (well, most of us) don’t have children to rely on (although children are not necessarily reliable anyway). If you move to the US … or maybe all us old ladies should move to Sweden 🙂

  10. jjwalters says:

    I’m 71, In my life I have been close to being dead a number of times . . . never thought much of it, still don’t. Now that I’m getting old I suppose I should be making plans for my oldness, but I don’t. . . . (I still smoke pot fer c’s sake.)

    Old age will happen, death will happen, but right now? . . . I’ having too much fun to worry about ti.

  11. barbedwords says:

    I feel so sad now 😦 Once I’m an old lady, I plan to dump myself on my children and let them keep me. I need to recoup the vast amounts of money I’ve spent on Sylvanian Families somehow.

    Now I must go and look at videos of laughing babies flicking elastic bands to cheer myself up…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Aw, that made me laugh! It seems I’ve depressed everyone with this one! And Latvia is only halfway down the list! I won’t have any children to dump myself on so I need to have a bloody good plan! 🙂

  12. Marianne says:

    Oh dear – it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

    Can’t picture you as a little white-haired old lady, Linda 😉

  13. Anna says:

    Jesus Christ, Russia is #78. In Moscow retirees do get supplementary pensions (doubling the national rate), but considering it’s one of the most expensive cities on the planet, I just dont know how people survive. Seriously, I do not. At least from Latvia you really can take a bus to Sweden… (well, and a ferry).

    • Expat Eye says:

      Wow, 78 – that’s pretty close to the bottom. I don’t know how people do it here either. In Ireland, they get more than that a week. Of course it’s more expensive to live there, but still… And most people in Ireland have their houses paid off by then so there aren’t really any major expenses for them.

      America is no. 8 – something to consider?!

      • Anna says:

        I am guessing many use dachas/land plots for subsistence horticulture. That’s my only theory. And help from the kids.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, a lot of people here have ‘country houses’ as well. Mind you, that’s not an easy life either. Most have no running water and outdoor ‘facilities’…

      • Anna says:

        You tellin’ me? I spent every pre-American summer at one of these, shoveling manure with the best of them. Once my fam sorts out some admin hassles with it, get ready for The Dacha Chronicles!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Oh god, that will make for some good reading! Hope you won’t wear that dress!

      • Anna says:

        Wait, what dress?

      • Expat Eye says:

        The one in your profile picture! Although it would make for some interesting photos!

      • Lila says:

        girls are u nuts? dachas are the best thing in the world. and yes i do wish that russians and latvians had more money and all, but even if i had more money i would never have indoor toilet and bathroom in my familys dacha. going to the outside toilet in the night and using the “summer shower” was one of my favourite childhood adventures=) we, at least, had electricty and gas in the house, while my grandma`s sister still loves spending her summers in the village country house where she actually cooks in the old coal oven and uses kerosine lamps or flashlight with batterie in the evening. i cant even describe how much i love it. and yes its sad that a lot of ppl have to live on products raised on the dacha, but amongst my russian friends even the wealthier middle class who can afford buying everything from the market, the most still devote most of their vacation and summer weekends to slaving away on the dachas and bringing home fresh produce. there s nothing quite like raising your own organic tasty pesticide free fruits and vegetables and then making ur own tomato sauce, apple jam amd pickles for the winter. its also a great experience for the kids. top that with having fresh milk from the neighboring cow, and eating shashlyk with home made wine on your own property – and its the best thing. would never exchange it for a malibu beach house in a million years. plus its a great free body fitness. keeps u close to nature and in good shape till old years.. assuming of course u dont live on a tiny pension and thats ur only source of food.

      • Anna says:

        Lila –
        I had pretty much the identical dacha experience to what you are describing. However, I think there’s a difference between dacha being a choice vs a necessity, somewhere you spend your summers at vs live year-round, and being a young person with family vs old person living there alone.

        I absolutely love and adore the dacha experience (which is why in a short while it will be eating up my entire disposable income) and yes, the ‘summer showers’ and even taking a tinkle under the stars can be fun (until the mosquitoes descend on your ass), but dachas are also a lot of work.

        When you’re an old woman and your hips and back and arms hurt, it’s hard to spend 6 months out of a year getting up early every morning to basically hand-plow the soil, fertilize it, plant the seeds, weed, collect Colorado bugs off potato leaves, water, cover-and-uncover the vegetable patches in case of frost, harvest, pickle and store the produce. Hell, it’s hard even not for an old person – I dropped 5 kilos guaranteed over a week of May holidays with prep work alone. And that’s even before you get to house maintenance and chopping wood and carrying water from the well.

        So yeah. Getting ‘back to nature’ is fun and all, but these old people aren’t having an adventure – they are trying to survive. At least let’s not trivialize that experience.

      • Lila says:

        oh i dont argue with u. i said dacha a lot of fun unless its not ur only source of food and necessity. but apart from that its a lovely cultural tradition – growing food on ur property that i would definetely continue even if living in the us. i would use my tiny backyard space not for barbeque or flowers but for growing my own tomatoes=))

      • Expat Eye says:

        Oh Lila, Lila, Lila! What I wouldn’t give for a couple of hours inside your head! What a lovely, happy place it must be! I’m sure that as a kid it was a great adventure, and yes, maybe even as a weekend getaway – but for a little old lady or man trying to maintain one on their own? It must be hellish. Even practical things like going to the toilet – if you need to go in the middle of the night when it’s -30 and you trip… It’s hardly ideal.

        And since I can kill bunches of flowers pretty much just by looking at them, I think growing my own fruit and veg would end in their demise and my starvation.

      • Lila says:

        il see for myself how hard it will be for me when im 60 year old.. then maybe i ll establish an inside bathroom=)))) allthough my 67 year old great aunt still refuses to sell her cabin and spend her summers in her daughters fairly modern dacha. in germany they have teeny tiny dachas inside the city, by the size of a big livingroom (i mean the whole dacha is that size). the toilet is outdoors. u may not build a big house. u may not host outdoor karaoke parties withouf written agreement of the garden partnership or how they call it. u cant even buy it as a property u can only rent it. i heard of smth similiar in great britain. thx i ll take a russian dacha any day))

      • Expat Eye says:

        I think I’d take a nice villa in Spain or the South of France. 🙂

  14. freebutfun says:

    I don’t think I can like this one, even though it is well written. The theme is just too sad. How common is it for old people to live with their kids while taking care of their grandchildren though?

  15. Naphtali says:

    That is depressing, you would think they would be able to relax and yell at children or something. In JA, my grandparents live with their children and have more freedom with their pension….I wonder where we fit on the list.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Looks like JA is not on the list. The USA is number 8 though. Here the grandparents generally raise their grandkids when they’re finished raising their kids…

  16. AT LEAST it ranked higher than Bolivia. I was there last year and that’s not a place you want to see out your last years…

  17. Lāsma says:

    This is really depressing. It’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t stand living in Latvia. I’m against giving money to beggars (although I always buy The Big Issue, give money to buskers, buy flowers from random street sellers etc.) but with pensioners I make an exception. Many of them can’t even afford new glasses because it’s too effing expensive! I once saw a couple looking at tomatoes, They both looked in their seventies. They were checking the prices of tomatoes and the woman said, ”We can’t buy them, it’s too expensive.” I seriously felt like crying. Many also can’t afford to buy meat…That’s a miserable life. Oxford Uni once asked ”Is it immoral to buy a 10.000 dollar handbag?” as their entrance exam question. Yes, 10 000 times yes, it is.

    • Expat Eye says:

      God, tomatoes. Hardly a luxury. That’s so sad.

      • Lila says:

        same thing in my homeland IT allways makes me feel like crying when I see old ladies outside supermarkets begging for cash. I always give them the money. In germany the only beggars i see are punks who walk the streets with their dogs and ask for money, play guitar and refuse to work. knowing how much welfare an unemployed person gets in germany i just dont give them money and dont want to encourage this hippy lifestyle. but poor old people break my heart

      • Expat Eye says:

        It is really sad. In Ireland, they get more than that a week.

  18. She’s probably using those leaves to burn as fuel 😦

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