Susan Grant examines gerohygiene, that is, the health and wellbeing of older people, their living and working conditions, and medical care. Key questions addressed here include: Who cared for old people, and why? What does the Soviet approach to eldercare tell us about socialism?

Scientists and scholars in the Soviet Union spent a great deal of time examining ways of developing physical culture, exercises and medication to help prolong the health and fitness of older adults. They also investigated ways of adapting the ageing organism to manual and intellectual labour, helping to keep older people in work up to and even beyond retirement age. Dr Grant’s research assesses these activities and their impact on older Soviet people. The remit of gerohygiene also facilitates explorations of how old people were cared for, or not cared for, by their families and the state. To this end, she assesses the various institutions and medical workers involved in eldercare. This includes older people and healthcare workers in doma prestarelykh (senior persons’ homes), doma pansionaty (residential sanatoriums) and doma internaty (boarding houses), ‘health rooms’ and other geriatric services, both medical and social.

Aleksandra Brokman’s work focuses on mental health and ageing in the Soviet context. Dr Brokman’s research aims to understand where psy-professionals drew the line between mental health and illness in old age and how mental health and wellbeing fit Soviet efforts to prolong human life and capacity for labour. Her research also addresses the prophylactic dimension of Soviet medicine and psychoprophylactic and mental hygienic measures proposed for the elderly. She wants to investigate the scale to which such measures were implemented in practice, as well as exploring solutions that remained largely theoretical, considering what these ideas also reveal about Soviet thinking about ageing and mental health.

Dr Brokman also examines psychiatric care for the elderly and medical discourse on mental illnesses in old age in order to understand which issues were prioritized (and why), and to situate the concerns, focuses and limitations of old age psychiatry in the wider context of the post-war Soviet Union.