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The entire city organisation supports the mobility of the elderly

For the City of Helsinki, the well-being of its elderly residents means highly systematic work and setting concrete goals.

The mobilisation and mobility of senior citizens is considered to be so important that the theme has been raised as a part of this year’s budget. The progress of the work is being closely monitored.

Has the work been successful so far, Physical Activity Programme Project Manager Minna Paajanen?

“Excellent progress has been made in all 17 ongoing measures,” says Paajanen.

All 17 concrete measures are listed at the end of this article.

In other words, there are plenty of good practical examples to choose from, but let’s start with the ‘Let everyday activate you’ campaign launched in May 2021. As the name implies, the campaign encourages elderly people and their friends and family members to lead an active daily life with the help of home exercise instructions, for example. The campaign materials and tips are still available at

A lot can be done remotely

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s remote services for culture and physical activity took a giant leap forward. The Helsinki-kanava channel now features 40 episodes of exercise classes for seniors, and in addition to strength training, they include body maintenance and balance exercises.

Project Planner Mari Kauppinen says that the city is currently conducting a survey on the kinds of remote services that have been launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, they will also examine to whom the remote services are directed and on which platforms they are offered.

“Our goal is also to learn which remote services work particularly well and which do not. This will allow us to build the best possible operating models for all our remote activities,” says Kauppinen.

The plan is to complete the survey this autumn.

While conducting the survey, Kauppinen has noticed that, for example, remote sing-along events have received a lot of positive feedback and worked well.

This feedback will be kept in mind during the autumn when piloting the remote day model, which will be implemented by several actors.

The idea of remote day activities is to provide senior citizens living at home company and stimulation remotely.

Remote day activities will not replace any existing services, but will become an additional service alongside existing ones.

Combining physical activity and art

The cultural and physical activities provided to elderly Helsinki residents will also be promoted with a budget appropriation allocated to various actors.

Last spring, the city awarded 1.4 million euros in grants to 22 cultural and art actors and to 21 mobility and physical activity actors.

Minna Paajanen says that many of the projects implemented with the grant combine art and physical activity into a new kind of entity.

“The selection ranges from theatre, circus and dance to walking football, remote exercise classes and karate.”

The city is developing guided physical activities for the elderly through extensive cooperation including sports services, service centres, adult education centres and Urheiluhallit Oy.

One important goal is for the guided physical activities to better reach the elderly who currently do not engage in enough physical activity.

In mid-October, a two-day service market for the elderly was organised in Myllypuro under the theme ‘Let everyday activate you’.

Among other things, information on the services of the Itä-Helsingin seniorit association was provided at the event. Visitors could also take part in a variety of functional capacity measurements.

The event was organised by the City of Helsinki and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Similar regional events will also be organised next spring.

Mobility Agreement for the entire service chain

Good progress has also been made towards reaching the goals of the Social Services and Health Care Division. Special Planning Officer Tarja Saarinen is particularly pleased that the Mobility Agreement has been systematically transferred to cover the entire service chain.

The Mobility Agreement supports the daily physical activity of the elderly in a systematic manner. The agreement is tailor-made to suit all parts of the service chain.

“All work units have appointed persons to be charge of the Mobility Agreement. The network includes more than a hundred of them and almost the same number of their immediate superiors.”

A video has also been produced of the Mobility Agreement to motivate customers, their family members and employees.

Currently, the Mobility Agreement is being audited in all social and health services.

Saarinen mentions the progress of the remote day activities as one example of the success of the agreement. It is particularly important that a wide range of experts from various fields participated in its modelling. This means that the elderly will receive a versatile additional service.

“It is likely that the pilot will include a day activity centre from each service area.”

The Seniori-info service will also guide seniors to physical activity more systematically than before: the Seniori-info website and advisory service are increasingly better equipped to guide the elderly to participate in sports and exercise services.

Safe and smooth cycling

Extending your circle of life beyond your immediate neighbourhood is easier when you cycle instead of just walking.

The city aims to increase cycling so that everyone, regardless their age or condition, is able to engage in it all year round. Cycling routes are built to be smooth, straight and safe, so that they also attract elderly people to cycle.

Cycling Coordinator Oskari Kaupinmäki says that intensified winter maintenance will be continued and expanded further in the city. In addition to ploughing, intensified winter maintenance also includes de-icing.

“The goal is to increase the area included in intensified winter maintenance by 20 kilometres every year.”

Kaupinmäki points out that Finns tend to have some misconceptions about exceptional weather conditions. The winter months are often bleak and at times slippery also in other renowned cycling cities, such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

The elderly are also encouraged to cycle parts of their longer journeys. A significant part of the city population lives within a 15-minute distance from a public transport hub.

The journey becomes smooth if you first cycle to the hub and then cover the longer stretch of the journey with public transport.

The cycling network within the city centre is growing, as is the Baana cycling network.

Finding the most suitable course is easy

During the early autumn, Jonna Martikainen, Head of Education, has received a lot of positive feedback on how great it has been to once again attend adult education centre courses live and on location. Last spring, only remote gatherings were possible.

Almost all sports and exercises courses were successfully transferred to online courses and people were able to continue to exercise at home.

“Last spring, we offered further digital support in addition to the city’s actual digital support to allow as many people as possible to attend our online courses during the strict COVID-19 restrictions.

Under special permission, digital support was also partially provided as onsite support.

Martikainen says that the cooperation between the city’s sports actors has further clarified the adult education centre’s role as a sports service provider

“In this regard, too, we have already partly achieved our goal of bringing together sports services and making them more easily accessible.”

Of the 200 sports and exercise courses offered by the adult education centre, 70 are intended for senior citizens. Martikainen reminds that no-one will ask your age. A fit 70-year-old is welcome to attend any sports or exercise course, not only senior sports.

It has now been easier than ever for the elderly to find the most suitable courses, as sports and exercise courses have been marked level 1–3, depending on the skill level needed and how physically demanding the course is.

The course selection now also includes outdoor sports and team games, among other new additions.

Year after year, the most popular adult education centre courses include senior exercise classes, body maintenance, increasing mobility, pilates and circuit training as well as dance courses.

“All adult education centre activities encourage people to be active in their everyday lives, whether it means taking a language course, guitar lessons or making jewellery,” Martikainen says.

Text: Kirsi Riipinen
Photo: Sakari Röyskö

The measures taken by the City of Helsinki this year to strengthen the well-being and functional capacity of the elderly by improving their exercising opportunities and mobility:

  • Developing adult education centre’s sports and exercise course activities directed to the elderly by establishing skill levels and degrees of difficulty.
  • Improving communication and remote service selection for the elderly.
  • Implementing a multi-faceted marketing campaign to support the mobility of the elderly.
  • Clarifying the division of labour between various city sectors and the third and private sectors and increasing cooperation in counselling, customer guidance and service production related to the mobility and physical activity of the elderly.
  • Implementing a service market tour to different residential areas of Helsinki in cooperation between various sectors.
  • Increasing volunteering opportunities in cultural and recreational services provided by the city, the field of culture and the civic society.
  • Providing customer-oriented remote service experiments for the elderly and assessing their accessibility and impacts.
  • Increasing interesting cultural services directed at the elderly through cooperation between the city and the cultural field by utilising the state heritage funds allocated to the city.
  • Expanding the recruitment of young people to run errands and provide home assistance for the elderly.
  • Improving walking and cycling conditions through intensified winter maintenance.
  • Increasing the number of benches.
  • Establishing and implementing a prioritisation and implementation programme for the city centre target cycling network and the Baana network.
  • Extending the use of the Mobility Agreement to cover all hospital, rehabilitation and care services (including senior centres, hospitals, home care, rehabilitative assessment and customer guidance as well as gerontological social work units) with the goal of achieving a 70% implementation rate.
  • Increasing the use of remote services by providing supported remote groups to home care and service centre customers, launching a remote rehabilitation pilot for the geriatric outpatient clinic, and increasing the staff’s competence in guiding customers to remote services and motivating them to use remote services.
  • Remote digital support activities will be continued and the operating model will be piloted as a part of the e-services support.
  • Enforcing the prerequisites of the Seniori-info website and the Seniori-info helpdesk to provide information and guidance that encourage mobility in multi-actor cooperation.