Senior volunteering – Social inclusion of older people through volunteering

Older people have the  knowledge, skills, and experience to make a valuable contribution to the society. Three cities have been developing new ways to promote and develop volunteering opportunities for seniors to help them stay active and involved.

By Karolina Mackiewicz,  Baltic Region Healthy Cities Association

Since May 2015 the ‘Let us be active!’ initiative has looked for ways to promote senior volunteering in three cities in Estonia, Latvia, and Finland, strengthening the cooperation between the Healthy Cities in the Baltic Sea Region. Pärnu, Riga, and Turku have worked together to involve more elderly people in volunteering activities, and to learn more about the wishes and needs of seniors when it comes to leisure time activities. Moreover, new forms of volunteering for older people were developed and piloted with positive results. This all took place within the ‘Let us be active’ project which was co-financed by the Central Baltic Programme 2014-2020 and coordinated by the Baltic Region Healthy Cities Association (WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Health in the Baltic Region). The lessons learned and plans for the future were discussed during the final seminar organized on 8 November in Turku, Finland.

The immediate evaluation of the 1.5-year cooperation between the cities and the WHO Collaboration Centre shows that the project created new knowledge on senior volunteering, which can be used when developing the activities in the future. Some of the valuable outputs include guidelines on ‘Senior volunteering – Involving and activating seniors in local community’ (available in English, Estonian, Latvian, and Finnish here), a new model of cooperation between cities and NGOs (developed in Turku), or the call centre run by and for senior volunteers which has opened in Riga.

During the project it was established that the senior citizens today prefer volunteering activities which do not require a long-term or regular commitment. The lesson is that it is important to promote senior volunteering not as a social activity or a work but as a hobby. If seniors’ primary motivation in volunteering is to meet new people, have fun and help others, it shall be promoted this way – as a fun activity with friends.

The project worked both with older people and their support networks. Information and support systems for seniors (a call centre in Riga, online platforms in Pärnu and Turku) were established for citizens, whilst Surveys, interviews, workshops, and training sessions targeted both seniors and social workers. Citizens’ families were also involved through consolation and collaboration.

Pärnu, Riga and, Turku plan to continue the senior volunteering activities after the project ends. Learn more about ‘’Let us be active!’’ by visiting www.letusbeactive.eu, www.facebook.com/letusbeactive or by contacting Karolina Mackiewicz, Project Manager karolina.mackiewicz@marebalticum.org

Karolina Mackiewicz
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Karolina has over 6 years of experience in cross-sectoral and strategic work with local, regional and national authorities in the Baltic Sea Region, including Russian Federation. Since 2009, she has been working with the World Health Organization’s European Healthy Cities Network, taking care for project management in the area of public health and health promotion and capacity building of local governments (leadership for heath, community diagnosis, management of change, evidence-based policy interventions, community participation). Since 2011 Karolina has been involved in the Expert Group on Non-Communicable Diseases of Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being. As a Development Manager responsible for projects and communication, Karolina initiates, develops and conducts the health projects with partners and stakeholders and takes care for its complex communication.