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

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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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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International Blue Cross

Location: Bern - Switzerland
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @BlueCrossTweets
Project Leader:
Anne Babb
Bern, Bern Switzerland
$3,912 raised of $10,000 goal
126 donations
$6,088 to go
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