The Central Baltic Programme 2014-2020 finances result orientated cross-border cooperation projects in Estonia, Finland (incl Åland), Latvia and Sweden

The first Central Baltic project to end

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 18:53

Let us be active! Senior volunteering as a recipe to fight social exclusion among the elderly

Exactly one year ago Let us be active! was the first Central Baltic project to end. Throughout its lifecycle, the project produced concrete changes in the life of those involved by testing services for elderly people that contribute to change how society perceive them: as a resource rather than a burden.

To learn more about these changes, last year I visited members of the project consortium and through them, some of the people whose life was impacted by the project. In this article I am presenting what I found out.

A glimpse into Let us be active! and into some of the lives it affected, can be experienced by looking at the short documentary about the project produced last year.

Different activities in different regions

To develop services according to the target group needs, the project reached out to elderly people living in Turku, Pärnu and Riga by the means of a survey Based on the survey results, different pilots were tested in each partner city.

In Riga, for example, some doctors were reached by the project staff and they explained that sometimes elderly people visited them not to discuss about specific health issues, but just to talk. These statements were behind the idea for the Riga pilot: a call centre meant for seniors and ran by seniors. The call centre, which is still operating, is ran by senior volunteers who answer phone calls from fellow seniors and tell them about activities taking place in Riga as well as they use this opportunity to befriend new people. Interesting in this regard, is the story of Gunta (in the first photo below), one of the call centre volunteer who answered the call of another senior once and kept in touch afterwards.

In Turku, the selected solution, was the so-called TripFriend activity. It consisted of involving volunteers belonging to the age group 65+ to visit the Kupittaa retirement home once a week and take the residents, elderly people such as Airi (in the second photo below) who are confined to a wheel chair, out for a walk in the vicinity.
In Pärnu, a website listing volunteering activities available for seniors has been piloted. The website has been maintained by seniors themselves. Thanks to this website, senior volunteers such as Marika (in the photo below) who have been able to participate in the organization of events such as the local Medieval Times and Heritage Festival thanks to the project.

These services have been found very useful by the elderly people involved as well as by the partner cities insomuch that they have decided to continue providing them even after the project ended, in some cases, such as in the call center one, there has even been talks of extending the service to other cities in Latvia.
Project results

Altogether more than 800 seniors were involved in the project by participating in surveys, workshops and events. Moreover, 340 professionals and seniors in partnering cities were engage in the project. More information about the results achieved by the project as well as the interview I conducted with the project manager around the time when the project was about to end, are available on our project database.

Looking at the bigger picture

Because of the good practices developed, the European Commission got interested in the project and published an article about it on the portal.  
The project also received attention in Poland where a project application aimed at adapting the Let us be active! experience to fit the Polish needs is being developed at the moment. The consortium consists of three Polish cities and it applying for European Social Funds (ESF).
Let us be active! was funded under the Central Baltic programme 2014-2020 priority 4, skilled and socially inclusive region, as the project aimed at supporting the programme’s specific objective 4.1 by contributing to strengthen Central Baltic communities. Social inclusion is also one of the 11 Cohesion policy priorities supporting the Europe 2020 strategy. The project ‘Let us be active!’ falls into this priority as its aim is to decrease social exclusion and loneliness among older people in Estonia, Finland and Latvia by developing schemes that will allow older people to stay active and participate in their communities.

Elisa Bertieri

The trip friend activity taking place in Turku