Volunteer associations in Finland – part 2: Two examples

Primary Source: Amanda Toler Woodward

Last time I described voluntary associations in Finland and their importance in elder care and the development of the social welfare system in general.

Today I have two examples of associations in Tampere that provide services for older adults.

Mummon KammariOne is Mummon Kammari (Granny’s Corner). Mummon Kammari is an association of older adult volunteers and a drop-in center. Founded in 1989, it was the first of its kind to be established in Finland. It is funded by the Lutheran church.

The drop-in center is open four hours a day, four days a week. About 100 people, ages ranging from 50 to over 90, come through on any given day and most of those do some volunteer work while they are there. “They are not just ‘Granny’s’”, I was told. “They are volunteers – that’s the main point.” “Granny’s” are those older adults, men and women, who call or visit the organization requesting some sort of help. A son or daughter may also call, or the City of Tampere may refer an older adult who is receiving services from them to the organization. So, while about 400 volunteers do work at the agency itself, another 1,000 visit “Granny’s” in their homes. Volunteers take them out, help with small chores, help them to the doctor, or just keep them company for a while.

It’s a small organization with seven staff and little hierarchy which helps it stay nimble and make quick decisions. This is important for its other role as an incubator for community-based projects. For example, they used to provide volunteers to visit elder care homes and hospice. Those projects got big enough that they have since spun off on and have volunteers and infrastructure of their own.

mukanetti ylalogo

Mukanetti, the other association I visited, is one of these projects. It started 15 years ago at Mummon Kammari with one person, but grew so big that it became an association on its own funded by Finland’s slot machine association (perhaps a post on that another day). Mukanetti provides computer training and support to older adults in the Tampere area. This includes a drop-in center (MukaSurf) that is open four hours a day (except in Summer); classes on topics ranging from Windows 8 to security issues to using Skype and Dropbox; and tutoring in older adults’ homes, at public libraries, and in senior residential facilities.

Yes, this is all done by volunteers, about 60 of them. And yes, those volunteers as well as the people they serve are 50 and older. While I was there I met the oldest member working in the office. She is in her 90s. The volunteer who I met with is in her 70s and used to work on IT development at Nokia.

Membership is 25€ a year. Except for the classes, the other services are at no additional cost. Classes are open to non-members too, but for a slightly higher fee than that paid by members.

According to the annual report, in 2014:

  • 35 classes were offered
  • 445 older adults participated in those classes
  • 476 training hours took place associated with those classes
  • There were, on average 13 students per class
  • Classes were, on average, 14 hours long
  • Volunteers provided over 3,000 hours of tutoring in homes or over the phone
  • MukaSurf provided about 1800 hours of services with two to three volunteer tutors available during the four hours a day it was open

That’s a lot of services and this is only two of the many voluntary associations in Finland.

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Amanda Toler Woodward
Amanda Toler Woodward is an associate professor in the MSU School of Social Work. Her goal is to share reflections on a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia, and whatever else catches her fancy.
Amanda Toler Woodward

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