When it comes to living longer, and having fun, apparently Moscow is the place to be.
As part of the city’s longevity project, more than a thousand seniors have danced in a record-setting Zumba marathon, another 27,000 sang in a giant karaoke show, and hundreds of older men braided wheat ears into a plait stretching nearly three quarters of a mile.
In all, more than 130,000 people have signed up for the Moscow Longevity Project, which offers classes, programs, and activities in arts, languages, skills, and athletics. Their average age is 67.
While the most popular are classes with a practical bent like in computer skills, English and sports, women are flocking to a class on walking a fashion runway, said teacher Svetlana Kvarta. Women make up the vast majority — 87% — of Longevity participants.
“Women never stop being women, no matter what age they are,” Kvarta said. “They always want to look beautiful, and we help them.
“Many of them try on heels — even those who never wore heels in their lives before.”
Located in parks, schools and community centers, the programs are within walking distance of anyone who wants to join. That’s a key to its popularity, organizers say.
“They spend a certain amount of time solving family and personal problems every day,” said Moscow official Olga Gracheva, describing the city’s seniors on a government website. “However, there is still plenty of time left and plenty of intellectual and creative potential to unleash.”
But it’s not all fun and games. Moscow’s project is aimed to helping people live longer and enjoy it.
Russians suffer high rates of heart disease, alcohol-related deaths, suicide, and depression.
Life expectancy hit a modern-day low after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Improving those numbers has become national policy priority.
“We really value elderly people,” said city official Vladimir Fillippov, an architect of the project, at a social innovation forum in Moscow last month.
“By 2030, we expect that in Moscow there will be more than 4 million people who are more than 55, 1 million more than what we are having now.”
Free to participants, the project costs $50 million a year. Moscow Longevity has been honored by the Smart City Expo World Congress that recognizes urban and social innovation.