Let us be active!

Social inclusion of older people through volunteering in Estonia, Latvia and Finland

P4 Skilled and socially inclusive region

4.1. More people benefiting from stronger Central Baltic communities

Central Baltic

01.05.2015 - 28.02.2017

€264 007

€208 054

Project Summary:

ENDED_The project ‘Let us be active!’ aims at decreasing social exclusion and loneliness among older people in Estonia, Finland and Latvia through involving them in voluntary work. The problem is accurate as the population of people in retirement age is growing and loneliness influences negatively their overall health and wellbeing. The idea is to develop a programme that will allow older people to stay active and participate in their communities by doing voluntary work.

The project will analyse existing activities available for seniors, examine their needs in the area of volunteering and produce guidelines for social and health care workers to promote and support voluntarism of the older people. Workshops, meetings and events for seniors, health care workers and social workers will be organized to develop the new form of voluntary activities. At the same time, the information platform in each city will be established and is to be managed by seniors themselves. The experts from the World Health Organization support the project implementation.

As a result of the project social inclusion of older people is expected to improve. The project activities will contribute to the improvement of the health and well-being of older people and their communities. It is expected that at least 100 older people and their families in every municipality will be influenced by the results of the project. Ultimately, the project will strengthen and support the resilience of the communities in the Baltic Sea Region, contributing to the programme’s objective.

Lead Partner

Itämeren alueen Terveet Kaupungit ry

Country: FI


Partner budget: 84.103 EUR

Amount of ERDF funding: 63.077 EUR ERDF

Project Partners

Rīgas domes Labklājības departaments

Country: LV


Partner budget: 54.648 EUR

Amount of ERDF funding: 46.451 EUR ERDF

Pärnu Linnavalitsus

Country: EE


Partner budget: 45.837 EUR

Amount of ERDF funding: 38.961 EUR ERDF

Turun kaupunki

Country: FI


Partner budget: 79.419 EUR

Amount of ERDF funding: 59.564 EUR ERDF

Expected results

The project will produce the results important and relevant from the point of view of improving the social inclusion of the older people in the participating municipalities. The main project results include:
1. Established and tested the information and support system for the seniors in each participating municipality;
2. Mapped and promoted activities relevant and suitable for older people – in form of brochures, distributed during the events, through the city workers and information system;
3. Enhanced cooperation of health professionals, social workers and senior organizations for the better support of older people;
4. Improved capacity of older people to participate in the voluntary work in their communities;
5. Enhanced involvement of the older people in the voluntary work in their communities;
6. Elaborated and tested guidelines for establishing and supporting the volunteering activities for older people;
7. Improved awareness of the families about the opportunities of the older people to be active.

All of these results contribute to the improvement of the health and well-being of the older people and their communities and in this way it directly supports the realization of the Programme result indicator. It is expected that at least 100 older people and their families in every municipality will be influenced by the results of the project.

Achieved results

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.