Let Us Be Active! improved the community of elderly in Estonia, Finland and Latvia

Improved community

The project managed to create new services for the seniors through a participatory approach, made volunteering options visible, gathered new knowledge about the needs and established new models for cooperation and involvement by compiling guidelines for social and health care professionals about senior volunteering. The project was financed within the specific objective 4.1 More people benefiting from stronger Central Baltic communities (see pdf below).

Results in numbers (output indicators)

Initially, the project aimed to involve 105 social workers and health care professionals and give them enhanced knowledge on volunteering of seniors. The actual outcome was 384.

And the number of participating seniors involved in activities in their community was expected to be 300, 100 in each city. The outcome was 862.


The establishment of the Volunteering call centre for seniors, which works from Monday to Friday, was a special action in Riga. From February until beginning of November 2016, up to 1400 calls were received. There are 3 senior volunteers present to answer the calls. They are recruited through the NGOs. The call centre proved to be popular and seniors are very happy that they have this opportunity to volunteer there. It is now managed by Riga’s Social services.

The Tripfriend activity was initiated in Turku (Retki Kaveri). The Tripfriend allows seniors to volunteer in elderly houses, taking their residents for a walk. It’s a group activity, which takes place every week at a given time and everyone can join. It turned out that the best way of promoting it is a peer recommendation, a word of mouth.

In Pärnu the website on volunteering activities available for seniors is maintained and updated, and there are also discussions on connecting it with the national volunteering service for more visibility and impact. http://50plussvabatahtlik.ee/

Benefits for target groups

For seniors:

  • an opportunity to be socially active, do something meaningful, find fulfillment, find an activity that fits them best, establish friendship

For professionals:

  • deeper awareness of senior volunteering and options that can be recommended to seniors, guidelines how to promote senior volunteering and engage seniors in their work, better visibility of the issue of senior volunteering and active ageing 

Comments from end users:

Ira (76) volunteers at the Riga Call Centre:
“Volunteering here allows me to gain a lot of new and interesting information and to find new friends.”

Antti (75) volunteers at the TripFriend activity in Turku:
“I come here regularly as volunteering makes me feel happy and useful. When I get older, I hope someone will walk with me as well.”

Eha (71) volunteers for “Medieval Times and Heritage Festival” in Pärnu:
“I was bored at home. Thanks to participating in the meeting of the project Let us be active! I found a courage to join with the festival organizing team and work in summer as a volunteer.”

To get a glimpse into how the life of end-users was impacted by the prject, check out this video documentary!

The work goes on

The project changed the procedures and created new routines in three pilot areas on a weekly basis, and the city administration in the partner cities have decided to continue managing the services after the project’s end.

The guidelines for professionals on volunteering are distributed widely to hospitals, NGOs and at relevant occasions. They are available online in four languages.

The approach is also spread through WHO experts, who can use Let us be active! experience in their work, promoting senior volunteering further as part of active ageing programmes and campaigns.
The experience of the cities from three countries seems to be diverse and universal enough for other cities to be able to refer to, and it can be disseminated to other countries as well.

Lessons learned

It is important to involve the seniors in the actions from the very beginning. A stronger cooperation with NGOs from the beginning facilitates the processes. The learning is also that seniors enjoy volunteering but not alone – preferably in pairs of in small groups.

From the final seminar:

Ilka Haarni, Dr Soc Sci, Adjunct Professor, Ikä Instituutti, Age Institute, Finland

There are only limited studies available evaluating the impact of volunteering on seniors, but it is known that senior volunteering reduces depressive syndromes, delays subjective ill-health, brings meaning to life and adds to life satisfaction and happiness.

Interest towards senior volunteering is growing for two main reasons: one is the cuts on social spending in the public sector, and the other is interest in the meaningful action and participation. As the older people change, so does the way they prefer volunteering.

We can observe decrease in long-term committed or institutionalized volunteering – today’s seniors prefer the activities which are flexible in timing, e.g. pop-up activities. There are three main motivational factors: to give back, to help, and the self-development.