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On helping others, justice, cohesion, promoting the cult of family and gender equality

Fast Confession – Beauty of Help Foundation originator Taťána G. Brzobohatá: The pension reform didn’t turn out very well

Šárka Kabátová
01.Dec 2021
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7 minutes

To be around not only one of the most beautiful women in the world and a world-famous model, but also a woman who actively wants to elevate all seniors' lives, who hates injustice and superiority, and who is extremely empathetic and sensitive, will give you an inspiring, delightful dose of energy. Right after the Natali Ruden fashion show, Taťána Gregor Brzobohatá, with a smile and an unmissable sparkle in her eyes, talked to about what it's like to be out of the catwalk, enjoying a social event from the other side as a spectator. She revealed much of the current world of the Beauty of Help Foundation, which she founded in 2008, gave us her perspective on the position of women and men in society and even gave away the advice Pierre Richard gave her.

Was this your first time at a Natali Ruden fashion show? How did you like it and what struck you about her outfits?

It was my first time at her show and I was invited by my – I hope he won't be mad – very old friend, Láďa Špaček. I was really pleased with the invitation, because it's just lovely to watch the show from the other side and not just from the catwalk; to me, it was more enjoyable as well. It was a beautiful show. Of course, I know how much work it takes beforehand – to rehearse, practice and sew everything. Since I also designed my own collection this year, I'm really aware it's an awful lot of work and time spent. So congratulations to Natali on a beautiful show and I believe everyone really enjoyed it.

Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 9 - 123m
Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 9 - 123m, Praha 9

You created the Beauty of Help foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the elderly. What do you think the care for people in this age group in the Czech Republic lacks?

We have been working with the Foundation for thirteen years to ensure that this care is sufficient and available to everyone. We fund modern social services, such as nursing care or personal assistance, and we also have our own volunteer program. Our volunteers see seniors in their spare time and give the most precious thing a person can give, their own time, to people who are troubled by loneliness the most. We also have many other projects around the country. The aim is always concerned with this "target group" and the cohesion of the family, which is not functioning or is ceasing to function today. I feel that the cult of the family is waning. There is not even enough financial support in this area. I wish, and we hope and work to change these things. We are trying to provide the younger generation insight in what is troubling the elderly, because let's face it; it affects us all. Whether we admit it more or less, we are all getting older and one day we will reach the retirement age. Hopefully. And maybe then we will realize what kind of support we need, what we can't manage on our own and what we are missing. Concern for others, family togetherness and support of other people, these are the things I would really like to see more of in the future.

What do you think the new government could do for the elderly in the first place?

Pension reform hasn't gone well so far, it's been discussed for years. Hopefully, the new government will take some more long-term, constructive steps and really come up with a long-term plan reaching beyond the one term.

What are the most common legislative barriers to your advocacy for seniors or even in seeking financial support, and what is the most common help that seniors need, what are their biggest concerns?

Most people don't want to end up in institutional care prematurely. Indeed, it is nine out of ten seniors who want to live at home, with dignity and professional care. And that's what we're working towards and funding. What we have to deal with in practice is that the way the rules are set up may work on paper, but in real life, it doesn't. For example, the banal thing that only a nurse can give the client an injection with a pen. Not a caregiver, because she is not a nurse, but a social worker. This puts a strain on the capacity of the whole system and causes us great complications. Unfortunately, social workers and health workers in general are not even well paid, although this is slowly improving. We are also trying to push for the dignity of the care service to be restored, for it to be done by good quality people, who are rewarded for their extremely hard work. It makes sense, because if we really want our ageing parents to be cared for by people who are qualified, who love what they do and see it as a mission, then these people must also be well compensated. We are trying to bring prestige back to these professions.

You know the joke that men die earlier because they want to? No, seriously! Is it a fact that women live longer; does this affect the work of the fund?

I don't think it affects the work of the Foundation in any way, but yes, women generally live many years longer. On the one hand, it's a blessing, but on the other hand, we're left on our own. Most of our clients are widows who have outlived their partners by some eight or ten years. That's really the biggest problem, one-person households, where the elderly are worried about finances. They don't have a pension high enough to pay for all their medicines, living expenses, and so on. In those cases, we try to arrange housing and social service allowances for them. It is mainly loneliness that plagues the elderly across the board. They may be sixty-five or ninety, but if a person lives alone and has no family around them, or if the family is not functioning and there are no friends in the picture, perhaps not even neighbors, then that person has no motivation to live and often wraps it up unnecessarily early. In brief – motivation and surroundings, the cohesion of friends and family, that's the most important thing. I believe it has an impact on the mental state of a person, which in turn affects our health fundamentally.

Do you feel there is a difference between the positions of women and men in today's society? Do you encounter such situations in your daily life?

Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice
Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice, Praha 4

Well, you hear about gender equality, gender differences and so on all the time now... I think it is a great challenge for the future, because the role of women and the role of men in the pure sense of the word is irreplaceable. Certainly, nobody wants women to be equal to men in going down the mines and having the same jobs as men. Although why not? If a woman feels close to it and enjoys it, then really, why not! But, for example, the wages are very different here. There are big differences between a woman's salary and a man's salary for the same job. I don't understand why, since we live in the 21st century. Moreover, the biggest differences are for university-educated women, perhaps as much as 22%, and that seems unfair to me. I think that there are things that are worth fighting for, that are worth striving for, and I believe that this will be reflected in the economic side of things as well. Canada, for example, is investing wonderfully in gender equality, and it reflects in the economy and the finances of the country, they understand that very well. So there is still a lot to learn, and I hope that the Czech Republic will not be left behind. So far, in terms of pay equality, we are probably second or third from last in the European Union, so that's a shame.

You have been in the modelling world for many years, in a sector with a lot of women. Have you ever encountered sexual harassment in your career?

Luckily, I haven't experienced it in person. I've nipped any innuendos or sexist remarks in the bud right then and there. But I know from my colleagues that they may have experienced something that was over the line. It's a very sensitive issue, because of course, we all have a different sensitivity threshold and different ability to stand up for ourselves. Some people, even if they look confident, can't or won't do it. But I think it's not just a question of our profession or show business as such, it's everywhere. It's in the acting business and the singing business, in fact, you can find it in absolutely every segment there is, and it's actually more about the abuse of power from a position of superiority. And it's not necessarily gender-related either, it can be woman against man, woman against woman. I'm sensitive to that, and I can stand up for people. If I notice someone abusing their position, putting someone down publicly or privately, etc., I try to point it out, even though I may not be liked for it. But it doesn't matter, it's just that if you're covering up for evil, or if you notice something that's out of line and you don't intervene, you don't support that person, you're giving the other person permission to do that, even by being silent. I think that's wrong. So, each to their own conscience and best knowledge.

What do you like about the modelling world? And conversely, if there was something you wanted and could change, what would it be?

What I like about modelling, commercial work, art and fashion in general is the creativity. Because it's an extremely varied, diverse job, you have to be an adept, capable manager, have a creative spirit, talent, good instincts, be sociable, have a bit of business acumen, be able to assert yourself, be communicative, learn a language and so on. There’s really a lot. It's an interesting job, and I'm glad I've been in this type of business for so long. It never grows old for me, and I don't actually get tired of it, which is good. I love my job, and I guess it's also about attitude. Everyone has a different approach to it, of course. It's not a leisure environment, I don't spend my holidays with people in my profession, but professionally I love being there and I still enjoy it. And that's fine, to find where your heart is and to use all the talents that you have within you. Modelling, together with commercial work, are activities that span across many sectors, and that's what I enjoy most about them.

What do you enjoy in private?

Sports, nature, friends. I love good food, so different gastronomic experiences, travelling... Travel is very much linked to my profession. It's nice to meet new people, new teams all the time and have the opportunity to participate in different creative ideas in campaigns, to create your own collections. It's interesting and I get to let all aspects of my personality run wild, it's really cool. Sometimes I even spend my private time in a cottage somewhere, wearing sweatpants. It's varied.

Thank you for the interview.

Thank you and have a nice evening.

Fast confession:

Why do you think it is that a relatively large number of seniors 65+ are not vaccinated? Is it a family failure?

I believe that every mentally competent adult is responsible for their own health, but the truth is that there are a lot of hoaxes and fake news circulating among the elderly, and I don't think that can be completely avoided. Thanks to social networks, thanks to the internet, lies and fake news are spreading across generations. It's not just the older generation, although they are among the most endangered groups and the most "under fire" as well. I even have many young people believing these constantly proclaimed lies around me; it is a phenomenon of our times after all. You can't be angry with the elderly for that. But that is why the family in particular should step in and try to explain that even in this day and age, lies can be spread over the internet and sometimes even on the news on TV. Many topics need to be looked at from a slightly different perspective, you really need to have good sources and take advice from experts rather than believing something written on the internet or everything that comes through the e-mail.
But everyone really has to make their own decisions based on their conscience and common sense. In short, you can't force people.

Are women more adaptable than men?

I guess it depends. I think it's individual; it's not really related to gender.

Have you tried clicking through the retirement age calculator?

No, I haven't.

The most common mistake people make in their wills?

They leave everything to someone who doesn't deserve it. And the other thing is they don't write a will at all, and everything goes to the state.

Should women who gave birth to more children be favoured?

Why not? I think any mother who has more than one child is truly deserving, so why not? And I admire that. I'm not a mother myself yet, but why not?!

What do you think is the optimal retirement age?

It's individual. Officially it's around sixty-five, but I know people who are still working at almost ninety and overflowing with enormous energy and drive. They are amazing, and they still have a lot to give. So if they feel up to it and they want to be part of the society and they have something to give, they're healthy, there's no optimal retirement age, it's totally relative.

Would you consider entering politics to step up the help for senior citizens?

I'm not considering it; it's off the table for now, but never say never.

Would you vote to "cap" the age at which one can become president?

I don't know, I have no opinion on that right now. I think these restrictions might not be very relevant in the future at all, we'll see.

Does the current job market allow enough job opportunities for seniors?

Our Czech labour market is very rigid, there are no shared jobs, which would be very good for women on maternity leave as well as for the elderly. Our job opportunities are amongst the most ossified in Europe and we really have a lot to work on. I hope that the next government will change a lot of things and support and favour the opportunity to work for older people who still want to work, even though they are retired.

What keeps some seniors their mental acuity?

Having a job, feeling needed and having the opportunity to enjoy themselves. They are still part of social life, still active. They have social contacts and friends and simply don't want to "wrap it up". They just have chances to live, and they take them.

When I say "To be continued (Pokračování příště)", what comes to mind?

My book that came out this year. Of course, that's probably the first thing that comes to mind. And I hope that there perhaps will be some other "To be continued" next time.

Were you upset by some of the government's actions and decisions during the pandemic?

Some of them, yes. It was wrong to deny some health care to the elderly. Preventive care in particular, which is important and unfortunately had to be postponed. Of course, acute cases were prioritized. But it is not possible to deny health care to other people, including the elderly, for such a long period of time. I did not see this as a very fortunate step.

Which senior-aged figure is an icon for you?

I hope she doesn't take offence. Jiřina Bohdalová, for example, and she's definitely not a senior citizen. She's just an incredible person, the "Immortal Aunt". I love her very much. And her career is incredible. She's just this extremely straightforward person and you would never guess she’s her age.

Your prescription for staying "fit" into old age?

Pierre Richard once told me that as long as one is curious, one will never be old. So as long as a person is curious, has a young spirit and is always interested in things and events around him and in the world, there’s a certain spark that never goes out and a person will always exude it. I take advice from the older ones.

I would ask you how are you, do you have a family and how did you like tonight?

I'm having a great time, and it's awfully nice being in your company. I have a family and a grown daughter, but I'm not a grandmother yet. Tonight was a very good night.
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