"Let's make Finland a model country for aging"

"A good old age is not built with nitty-gritty regulations but by turning our attention to the elderly," Eva Korkiamäki sums up, the organization director of the Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People. Eva, who has held company management positions for a long time, now wants to make Finland a model country for aging. Read how this could be achieved from Eva's interview.

FUTURE MAKER Eva Korkiamäki, Director, VTKL

Who are you?

I'm a career changer. I have been working in the sales management of corporate business my entire career and I started thinking about what else I could do that was meaningful. I felt that elderly work and aging are areas in society where I could contribute. I got myself a geronomist degree and moved to my current position.

The Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People (VTKL) is a place where I can actively be involved in developing operating models for elderly work and contributing to an age-friendly society. In this job, I can truly influence the aim of making Finland a model country for aging.

What would Finland be like as a model country for aging and what does it require?

Everything starts from the attitudes and values ​​of Finns. Finland will be a model country for aging when attitudes are age-friendly everywhere, older people are genuinely heard, living a long life is valued and older people get the services they need.

I want to be a part of building a future where services exist for those who need them and where people's individuality is taken into account. Optimally people would start preparing for aging already in middle age. We'd spend more money on preventive services which would also be respected by decision-makers. Proactive health care would work, we'd invest in sports and active lifestyle throughout life, and we'd have service centers for the elderly with the right kind of professionals.

Work in the field of elderly care needs to start from the perspective from the elderly, aiming for holistically good life. Being elder is not a disease.

In the model country of aging, we would have also gotten rid of the medicalization of aging. Old age is not a disease. Life in a nursing home is not just medicine and wound care. We'd also give value to non-medical experts, to make sure that the overall life of an elderly person is good until the end. We would have succeeded in renewing the quality criteria and have been able to better take into account the wishes of the elderly. In general, we'd have learned to make decisions through the eyes of an elderly person.

How do you see the role of technology?

Technology will be a significant part of solutions. When developing technology solutions, it is important to take into account the improvement of the quality of life of the elderly, that the development is not only driven by the incentives of saving money and increasing efficiency. These are not mutually exclusive. As we ourselves have noticed during the corona period, doing business remotely has proven useful in many business areas. When all relevant matters are handled remotely, there is also more time for face-to-face meetings.

What is your message to decision-makers? 

Resourcing of the care for the elderly has been at too low a level for decades and with multiple government. What is needed now is a comprehensive examination of aging and related service needs, purposeful planning and the joint commitment of political decision-makers to the implementation of the Age Program.

The focus should be shifted to the elderly and to understanding what is a good life from their point of view. Investing in preventive measures can improve the quality of life and postpone the need for heavy services. Attention should also be paid to social needs and a sense of security, and to guarantee adequate and timely services according to individual needs, for example by developing new types of supported housing. In the spring, we conducted an extensive public survey on age attitudes and the criteria for a good old age in Finland. The answers brought up the idea that a good old age is similar to a good life at any age; that includes family and friends, health, self-determination, and getting services and help when you need it.

The people's movement started by VTKL 'Tehdään #Iästä Numero' is becoming popular on social media. The aim of the movement is to, for example, enhance the positive attitudes towards elderly people in the society. Order the newsletter of the movement!

What advice would you give how each of us can promote and enable a good old age?

It is good to start from your own attitude. Paying attention to the elderly should not be seen as something that takes away from the young. I encourage everyone for intergenerational cooperation.

Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own lives and take good care of themselves and the people close to them. You can read tips and tricks to prepare for old age from our website 'vanheneminen.fi.' There you can find information about the people's movement called '#IästäNumero', which I encourage you to participate in!

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VTKL – The Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People is an active opinion leader supporting the well-being of elderly people and working for the benefit of member organizations. The association also supports the Finnish elderly people to prepare for old age. Read more about the association from here.