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Successful O4O meeting held in North Karelia, Finland

26 January 2010

Update on O4O North Karelia, Finland meeting

The O4O project team met on 19-21 January in Nurmes, North Karelia. The meeting was particularly useful as most partners are now active in developing O4O social organisations and working with communities to establish services and activities to benefit older people.

Particular themes that emerged during the meeting were: the extent to which older people need additional basic services at different stages of their ‘older life’. It may be that ‘3rd age’ older people can benefit most from ‘services’ that are geared towards improving quality of life; for example, Lulea provided an example from Niemisel community where older people were working with younger people together to provide a café, social space, help with homework and childcare. At ‘4th age’ when older people are very needy, perhaps volunteers can provide some forms of social support, visiting and friendship, but services may be more specialised and intense. There was also discussion as to whose responsibility it was to establish a structure for social organisations and volunteering to develop. Is this the role of the public sector or should communities and individuals ‘do it themselves’? It was notable that a number of communities were working towards the model of establishing ‘hubs’ or centres to provide combined or integrated services.

How to sustain social organisations was another theme and it was noted that little seems to be achievable without funding. Grants still seem to be the way to start and maintain these organisations and a radical shift in types of support and policy would seem to be needed to make social enterprise happen en masse in remote areas.

O4O is generating lots of useful information about the extent to which social enterprise is a viable model for basic older people’s services and the types of ways this might be done. This evidence is being brought together and will be disseminated more formally as the project progresses.

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