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

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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The Finnish Blue Ribbon has been active in Peer Support Groups for many years. The "Pilke Peer Support Groups" meet regularly so that elderly people can talk about addictions and related issues such as loneliness, anxiety and depression. Pilke means "look at" - which means that in the groups each individual is “seen” and his or her individual needs are perceived.

In March a new project called “Pilkettä elämään” (finn. for “A glimpse into life") has started. The aim of the project is to spread the Pilke peer support group work all over Finland during the next three years. As a result new Pilke groups are being established and there are going to be more and more Pilke-instructors. Hundreds of elderly people with substance abuse problems will have a community to belong to and a reason not to drink for at least one day a week. The culture of "We look after each other" is promoted by the project and in the long term it can shape whole Finland by creating a place to be for elderly people.

A goal in this initial phase is also to find out how cost-efficient and effective Pilke work is compared to individual support. Different assessments will be conducted to make the groups as valuable and far reaching as possible.

For this enriching project we are happy to receive additional donations, so that healthy aging can be promoted in Finland in a targeted manner. Many thanks for your generosity!

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At Christmas time we look back and reflect on the people who are so dear to us. People with alcohol and drug problems age before their time due to the damage that is caused to their body by substances.

Grieving the loss of health or a life lost due to substance use is often a hidden sorrow. Finnish Blue Ribbon is now publishing a handbook to help people and equip people to process their grief.

The new handbook is called: "Shared grief is easier to carry" ( Jaettu suru – kevyempi kantaa) it looks in a sensitive way to the substance abuse related losses and guides with practical examples in different stages of grief. It also gives tools for setting up a self help group for people with similar experiences. The book will be lanunched in January 2020.


At this Christmas time we hope that nobody is left alone and we are thankful for your support that makes this work possible and look forward to continuing  together with you in the new year 2020.


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The Blue Cross in Finland is currently concentrating strongly on food and food aid in line with the global trend. The aim is not only to prevent food waste, but especially to provide food to the poor by distributing meals and to provide a place of encounter and community for elderly people.

Eating alone in later age is a big topic. The isolation when loved ones die around and the social environment shrinks, causes many eating habits among older people that are not healthy. Many people feel that it is not worth cooking for themselves, so the variety of food is limited. Other people, one may willingly say older men, often cannot cook because they have been blessed by their wives all their lives. Yet others are no longer fit enough to stand in the kitchen or carry shopping bags.

This very often leads to emotional discomfort. "Happiness goes through the stomach". If the food is suddenly a burden, tastes flavorless or reinforces the solitude, it leads to health and mental damage for many people.

The Finish Blue Ribbon allows older people to eat together regularly. The benefits and enjoyment of the lunch tables are underlined by the following statements:

The diversity of food aid work is a relief in everyday life, it reaches many different people for many different needs. 

Peter, an annual member of the Church who eats at church three times a week, says he can't even cook: “I would eat cold food if these places didn't exist.” Two other days a week, Peter goes to Vuosaari for dinner and the other in Vartiokylä. Nina, a resident of Vallila, says she regularly attends a meal held by 4-5 parishes around Helsinki: “I must visit here when there is such a small pension. I'll go somewhere. The crowd is fun to eat.” Peter, sitting at Nina's table, says that cooking at home doesn't make sense: "What would you even cook for yourself."

The most important theme throughout the day is that a person should be allowed to be involved in the society in which you live. Modern food aid work brings a lot more than food.

With your support, you help to ensure that old people not only get a warm meal, but also enjoy their daily lives through the community. The social contacts throughout the meal become friendships! Thank you for your donation!

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International Blue Cross

Location: Bern - Switzerland
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @BlueCrossTweets
Project Leader:
Mischa Rychener
Bern, Bern Switzerland
$3,766 raised of $10,000 goal
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