In spite of urbanisation, nature remains close to the hearts of Finnish people. Among the elderly in particular, memories from childhood and youth are often related to the countryside and agriculture.
This is well understood by Juankosken Hoiva Oy, a company that provides care and residential services for the elderly and for mentally disabled people in the provinces of Northern Karelia and Northern Savo, where the firm decided to bring childhood memories into the daily lives of residents.
In accordance with the so-called green care philosophy, cats, dogs and hens wander about in the care homes' courtyards. Furthermore, residents pay regular visits to nearby fields, where they can feed sheep, cows and horses.
Even immobile residents can participate since they are taken outside in their beds, or can watch the animals' feeding and other activities on the televisions in their own rooms.
Better sleep, a more active mind
According to care home entrepreneur Arja Nevalainen, the difference to traditional residential and service institutions is evident in the residents' overall wellbeing and activeness, which has been monitored using methods such as heartbeat analysis with Firstbeat technology.
Such monitoring shows that residents' sleep quality has improved and stress levels have fallen. There has also been a reduction in the need for antidepressants and sleeping pills.
"For some residents, feeding and looking after the animals has clearly become a motivator that forces them to become physically active. One of them goes to collect fresh eggs every morning, the second goes for a little walk with the dog and the third pampers the cat", Nevalainen explained.
Fishing and hunting trips have also proven highly popular, particularly among male residents.
"These bring back a lot of memories for those who used to live in the countryside. For example, following a hare hunt was a true experience for them," Nevalainen said.
Attracting interest from abroad
Juankosken Hoiva Oy has received funding for the development of its green care operating model from the Tekes Innovations in Social and Healthcare Services programme and from the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.
"Thanks to this funding, we have been able to develop our operations and create new operating models for nursing in partnership with local entrepreneurs. For nursing personnel this involves changes in attitude as well as learning new things. Doing things differently may feel like hard work at first, but it really pays off when you see the residents starting to perk up."
The green care operating model has also attracted interest from abroad, a potential destination being Singapore which invests strongly in health tourism and services. According to Nevalainen, Juankosken Hoiva has been building a cooperation network in Singapore for over two years and is raising its profile by participating in sectoral trade fairs, for example. The company has also presented its operations to the local Ministry of Health.
"Singaporean sheltered homes for the elderly can accommodate thousands of residents, so the scale, circumstances and operating environment are completely different to those in Finland," comments Nevalainen.
Arja Nevalainen, entrepreneur
Juankosken Hoiva Oy
Tel. +358 50 306 2978
arja.nevalainen (at) vihreahoiva.fi
Text: Recommended Finland
Photo: Juankosken Hoiva