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Occupy Your Own Age demands more action to municipalities in the implementation of new services for the elderly in Finland

Occupy Your Own Age demands more action to municipalities in the implementation of new services for the elderly in Finland © Ethan Prater | Flickr

A recent survey carried out by the Finnish NGOs behind the Occupy Your Own Age campaign (Valtaa Vanhuus) and answered by over 200 local officials responsible of services for the elderly, reveals that Finland’s municipal authorities are well aware of the challenges and needs of an ageing population. However, the planning of specific services in municipalities seems to bee lagging behind, according to the campaign’s spokespersons.

The journey from the decisions to the implementation is usually long, so the pace of development in municipalities seems far too slow. The demands are known and there are good solutions. Therefore, the results should be achieved much faster," says Vappu Taipale, chairman of The Union for Senior Services.

One fifth of the municipalities in Finland haven’t decided for example how to develop a variety of housing services and to promote old people's physical activity and functional capacity in this decade.

According to the organizations behind the Occupy Your Own Age campaign, the most urgent goal is a big change in the attitude towards seniors. “It is time to change the perspective and to see elderly people as social, active players who have their own will and a wide range needs other than medicals," says Taipale. "The coming Act on Care Services reflects this thinking well. The results of the survey show that the idea is also recognised by municipality officers. Implementation is at the very beginning."

Municipalities also need to see that a big part of the retirement-age population is very operational, autonomous and active - not just the objects of caring, but also providers of caring. "Local authorities could take greater responsibility for coordinating the development of the volunteer work and organisational work. Bringing together generations in different areas of life is a resource that we can not afford to lose."

The survey also asked leading officials how would they like to be treated when they get old. The majority of the authorities expressed their wish to receive care at home. When the need for assistance increases, they hope they will be taken care of in a good community-service home or a high-quality nursing institution.

"The results show that every civil servant and policy maker should be asked how he wants to spend his old age. This question gives the best answers for planning the services”, says Taipale. "Next, we need to go beyond talk to action. It's time to produce policy decisions and real action in municipalities."

Occupy Your Own Age is a campaign run by eight NGOs in Finland encouraging citizens to live an active and healthy ageing. Launched in the frame of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, the initiative challenges both citizens and municipal decision-makers to see age from a new perspective.

The complete report with the survey’s results may be downloaded here (in Finnish).