Promote Healthy Aging in Finland

by International Blue Cross
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Promote Healthy Aging in Finland
Promote Healthy Aging in Finland
Promote Healthy Aging in Finland

In Finland, as in other Western countries, the population is aging. In 2019, 22 percent of the Finnish population was over 65, and it is estimated that by 2030, one in four Finns will be over 65 (statistics of Finland 2015 and 2020). At the same time, since 1985 there is an increase of alcohol consumption among the 65 to 69 year olds. Even though the increase of alcohol among women is bigger, men still consume more alcohol overall (Helldán and Helakorpi 2014).

Research from the A-Clinic Foundation shows the challenges of access to substance abuse services for older people. Since 65 to 90 year olds have different needs and problems, they need adapted treatment. Older people who drink, are often isolated from their families and friends and struggle with loneliness, which affects their drinking behavior. Further older people deal with problems such as memory impairment, impaired alcohol tolerance and medication, self-determination problems and stigma. Shame and guilt about one’s alcohol use, is also a common issue, which hinders them from getting help.


These facts show how important support services are, especially for older people. To tackle this problem, the Pilke groups are active for 20 years now. In cooperation with other NGOs and municipalities, the Pilke groups organize different activities for older people all over Finland. They aim for inclusion and participation of older people who struggle with substance abuse. Further the Pilke groups empower older people to manage their every day life and help them to reduce alcohol and drug consumption.

In order to provide these services in the future, we need your help. We warmly welcome everything you give to support the Pilke groups!



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As it has been limited to maximum 6 people gatherings in Finland during the covid pandemic there has been a variety of solutions to continue the support to the most vulnerable  people. Depending on local circumstances some Pilke groups have met and others have had to use telephone and internet for meetings. The project co-ordinators have prepared new events to continue the support and empowerment of group leaders to find innovative solutions to reach the vulnerable aging population. We can all increase the well-being of our loved ones by picking up the phone and keeping in touch. This is the corner stone of prevention to feel connected and have someone to talk to when the need arises.


Calendar of events 2021
National online meetings of Pilke actors:

The highly popular online meetings of Pilke actors will be held again on May 25, 2021 and June 8, 2021 from 1 to 3 p.m. The appointments have the same content, so you can choose which one to attend.

The program includes, among other things, coverage of different areas and workshop work on the Pilke exit plan in the midst of an epidemic.

Register for this by May 19, 2021. Welcome!

Pilke instructor trainings:

Will start again in autumn 2021.

Pilke activities for your community? Contact:

Pilke trainer trainings:

Instructor training II 2.3.2021-18.5.2021 (full).

Trainer training will continue again in autumn 2021


Thank you for your support this makes our work possible!


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Unfortunately alcohol consumption among elderly people in Finland rose during the Covid-19 pandemic. Katariina Hännien, project manager of the Pilke groups in Finland believes that elderly people drink more due to increased loneliness. Especially older people who were already struggling with drugs before the pandemic, are more likely to be in a worsened condition now. The pandemic not only causes isolation, it can also lead to depressions and anxiety. In order to contain these negative emotions, old people are facing an increased risk of consuming more alcohol. The consequences of the pandemic show that elderly people need more support now then ever. The Finnish Blue Ribbon is aware of this need, which is why they hold online meetings and seminaries. Besides these meetings, we are also convinced of the importance of showing elderly people that we care for them and want to support them. Pilke group leaders check on them every week to make sure no one is alone with their problems.


Thank you for everything you give to support elderly people struggling with alcohol consumption during this difficult time. We warmly welcome everything you give!


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There are 15 different Pilke groups which regularly meet up all over Finland. The Pilke groups are part of the Finnish Blue Ribbon. They organize professionally supervised activities for older drug users. Pilke groups provide a safe space for older people where they can talk about their addictions, build friendships and get help for their daily lives. Luckily the meetings were also held during Covid-time - just online. We are happy to announce that the virtual meetings can continue in fall. Finding creative ways during Covid-time older people are still able to be part of the Pilke groups and meet regularly via the Internet. Especially during this time of isolation and loneliness due to Covid it is really important to continue with the Pilke groups and support older people.

To ensure that the group members are well accompanied, Pilke groups need professional staff. That’s why between September and November Pilke Instructors are being trained. It’s amazing that the instructor trainings are full of participants! Pilke instructors are being educated in Southwest Finland and Vantaa and soon also in Heinola.  It’s great to have the capacity to invest in instructors, which are going to change the lives of older people suffering from drug addiction.

This is only possible by generous donors as you - thank you so much for your support!

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“The COVID-19 pandemic poses great challenges for older adults and their families, support systems, caregivers, and medical and mental health care providers. Increased mortality among older adults following infection with the novel coronavirus, is now well established. Older people already are vulnerable to the effects of isolation and face bad consequences from social distancing, which may trigger or worsen anxiety, depression, substance use, and other psychiatric disorders. As long as social distancing guidelines remain in place, older adults in recovery from substance use disorders may find themselves cut off from support if they are unable to effectively use online treatment and self-help resources” (Satre et al. 2020).

“Supporting and protecting older people living alone in the community is everyone’s business,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, addressing journalists at a virtual press briefing. “I am reminding governments and authorities that all communities must be supported to deliver interventions to ensure older people have what they need. All older people should be treated with respect and dignity during these times. Remember, we leave no one behind.”

Support for older people, their families and their caregivers is an essential part of the countries’ comprehensive response to the pandemic. During times of isolation and quarantine, older people need safe access to nutritious food, basic supplies, money, medicine to support their physical health, and social care. Dissemination of accurate information is critical to ensuring that older people have clear messages and resources on how to stay physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic and what to do if they should fall ill.

The Blue Cross Sininauhaliitto is and has been committed to helping vulnerable people during the Corona crisis. Food was distributed to families and elderly in Rauma, online meetings were held, self help groups were organized. The organization also became involved in politics. In May, the Blue Band Union discussed the effects of the corona crisis with the day-care actors. Many good tips and policies came up, which can be multiplied with other actors. They collected ideas, thoughts and policies that have risen in the discussion.

There were also changes for the employees. During the Corona period, the Blue Ribbon Association offers its office workers the opportunity to have a helpful work well-being morning at Skata's farm. So there was variety during the home office time. For example the new lawyer Saija was doing firewood at the Skata’s farm and at the same time getting to know Green Care.

It is important that we all continue to look after the elderly people in our community. We should contact them regularly and offer our help.

Thank you dear donors for all financial support. Together we are working against loneliness and for a life without addiction.



Satre, Matthew E. Hirschtritt, Michael J. Silverberg, and Stacy A. Sterling (2020): Addressing Problems With Alcohol and Other Substances Among Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic, American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

WHO (April 2020): Supporting older people during the COVID-19 pandemic is everyone’s business.

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International Blue Cross

Location: Bern - Switzerland
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Project Leader:
Anne Babb
Bern, Bern Switzerland
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