Valentina is a coordinator of a club in Tajikistan that works hard to improve older people's lives.

Untold stories: Valentina Solodova, Tajikistan

I’m a lonely pensioner. After reaching the retirement age, I had to stop working even though I could carry on. Overnight, I was left without work, with a small pension, and I lost my social environment, my coworkers.
I felt discriminated against because of my age. Nobody will hire us for work. I soon realised the situation for older people has to be better.
I knew from acquaintances about a charity that helps lonely older people. Doctors work there. They give out medicine, food and clothes, and there are communication clubs where older people get together to discuss their interests. I came to the club where I met other single pensioners.
Since I had legal knowledge and leadership qualities, the group selected me as the coordinator of one of the clubs. I found that many did not know their rights. They have very low self-esteem, do not know what to do, are in a state of depression. In a worse state than I am.

Tell us about your proudest moments as a campaigner 

I had a lot of achievements in the club, but there are for all members of the group! There was an older woman who lived in one area of the city, but was registered at a different address in another area of the city of Dushanbe. This was the reason she was not given her pension.
However, according to the law, she has the right to receive a pension at her own request either at her place of residence or at the place of registration. She did not know this. I managed to solve this issue and she began to receive her pension at her place of residence. This is a huge success for our group.

What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it?

During Age Demands Action campaigns, we almost always meet with decision-makers. On World Health Day in April, we had a meeting with the head of the health department and in June we met with a representative of the Ministry of Justice. We did not ask for money, but we helped older women to get cataract operations. Our request was granted and the operation was done with a large discount.

How are things improving for older people in your country? What challenges do older people still face? 

Recently, we participated in a conference organised by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population. There the decision was made to create a working group to develop the State Strategy on Ageing. It’s a huge success. Older people are listened to. National traditions are strong in this regard. The government does a lot for older people. One of the greatest things we have achieved is free travel on public transport for pensioners!
But there are many issues. We really want to have access to work. We have knowledge, skills and experience. We want a UN convention on the rights of older people to be adopted. This is very important for all older people of all countries around the world.

What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person? 

Age Demands Action is a school for all older people. We organise seminars, identify our problems, meet with decision-makers, create delegations of activists, and ultimately solve our problems. ADA has improved our self-esteem. We have learned to speak about and defend our rights.
Our campaigns have changed lives of people in urban areas, but such campaigns must be also carried out in the countryside. We have to create groups there.

Do you have a message for other older people around the world?

Older people are a huge national treasure for every country! Everyone in the world should know this. 

And finally, what would your perfect world look like? 

My perfect world is where older people are healthy physically, economically and psychologically, and rejoice at every day of life.
With thanks to Central Asia Gerontology Centre in Tajikistan.  
Read more stories from older campaigners.