Since 1989 there has been a widespread collapse of public services and income support for older people in the Russian Federation. Pensions have declined in real value and frequently are paid late, the system of collective health care has become less reliable, and the social institutions and services that formerly helped disadvantaged older people overcome isolation and loneliness have almost entirely ceased to function. Most people's personal assets and savings are insufficient for a decent life, and many cannot now afford the medical services and medications that they need. Given the absence of formal or institutional support, older people in Russia have had to develop pragmatic coping mechanisms, most commonly based on informal social networks and diverse income-generating activities, including barter and exchange in the informal ‘grey’ and ‘black’ economies. The household budgets of many pensioners increasingly rely upon their ability to raise income through their labour and the exchange of goods, and the time that they devote to these productive activities is increasing sharply. In comparison with other age groups, older people in Russia own many private apartments, garages, and garden or allotment plots, and they are important factors in the generation of income. These assets are used first and foremost to avert poverty and degradation, and more generally to support the immediate and extended family. The current economic system and the inadequacies of the existing system of social protection perpetuate the distinctive coping strategies.