Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, where part of my research takes place, is a rapidly growing and transforming city. Since a decade, high-rise apartment blocks are mushrooming throughout the city replacing old Soviet buildings and quarters with detached houses. In central districts, the wide avenues are lined with glass facades and shiny advertisements promoting new products, styles and fashions. With the rising living standard of the middle classes and the introduction of official yellow taxis, the city’s transport truly tripled filling the roads with passenger cars alongside public means of transportation such as large, motorised buses (avtobus), trolleybuses (trolleibus) and minibuses (marshrutka). Where one lives and how one navigates the city is nowadays a question of social background and prestige. One rarely sees Dushanbe’s affluent residents using public transport, while older adults occupying the lower economic strata mostly take motorised and electric buses that offer reduction cards for pensioners.
Gender and (im)mobilities in later life
According to common understanding in Tajikistan, older adults retreat from physical work in later life and ‘age in place’ among family members, who take over most household tasks and care for the seniors. My observations however show that Tajik elders assume many physical activities around the house and not seldomly continue to be employed far beyond their official retirement age to gain some extra income. The work that older adults exercise around the house is highly gendered and reflects the common division of household (care) labour along gender lines. I found senior women cooking for family members that are at work or at school and overseeing grandchildren that do not go to a kindergarten or school. They would also oversee the shopping of groceries and stocking up foods for the winter, while senior men would attend to less strenuous work around the house, in the garden (if there is one) or in the fields (here rather providing aid to their sons).
In bigger cities like Dushanbe and Kulob, a considerable percentage of inhabitants lives in high-rise apartment blocks that lack the common male activities around the house such as gardening. Here, one commonly sees older men meeting at public parks or in tea houses to play chess and socialize with friends discussing politics and other news.