Project connects Moscow pensioners to students abroad

An elderly women rides an escalator in a Moscow metro station. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The initiative aims to increase elderly Muscovites' social interaction

Students learning Russian around the world are being offered the chance to improve their language skills by chatting online to pensioners in Moscow.

The new scheme, called Lingualink of Generations, aims to reduce loneliness among elderly people in the Russian capital using video chat service Skype, the Moskva 24 news website reports.

"Our pensioners have lived long and interesting lives which they can talk about, and share their wisdom," the project's co-founder Svetlana Pavshintseva tells the site, adding that it will make up for a lack of social interaction in their everyday lives. "Thanks to them, students from other countries will be able to not only master language skills, but also find out more about our culture, history and mindset," she says.

Students and graduates from the National Research University Higher School of Economics came up with the idea as part of a competition for socially important projects, and were inspired by a similar initiative in Brazil in 2011.

So far, 15 international students have applied online to be paired with an elderly Skype pal, a number organisers hope to double by the end of the year. Tatyana Prusova, from the Older Generation organisation, thinks lots of retirees will be keen to sign up, too. "Many people understand that the old age is not the end of life. They communicate, travel, try to learn something new," she says, adding that some may even want to improve their own foreign language skills.

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