Ageing population is a tricky challenge for human-orientated welfare systems. Traditionally Finland, as well as other Nordic countries, has been emphasizing the societal benefits that happen through supporting self-imposed learning and coping of people. The number of over-75s is expected to double in the next two decades in Finland – causing the Finnish population to become the oldest in Europe. Furthermore, current societal problems such as weak economic growth, issues in public finance and increasing need for services, all constitute more difficulties in adapting to new shifts in country’s demographics.
Nordic Experiment is Developing a New Service for Ageing Population
New solutions to handle current and future elder care, are being developed with a Nordic competition and experimentation project. Nifty Neighbour, Finnish-based solution, is one of the finalists of the Nordic Independent Living Challenge. Nifty Neighbour and four other finalists are the last remaining of the initial 414 participants of the challenge.
Current changes in demographics and service structures are unforeseen. That is why there is a demand for entirely new solutions and approaches as well. “The goal of the competition is not to look for ready-made services, but instead to develop them in cooperation with the target group”, explains Demos Helsinki’s experiment specialist Mikko Annala. “This is why we should not even try to finalize the solution by ourselves. Instead, we’ll co-develop it in tight interaction with its potential end users”.
The competition demonstrates clearly, how in fact, ageing of the population is “a Nordic challenge”: all five Nordic capitals are currently looking ways to manage it. “Therefore it is important to experiment in different cities, exactly where the service is targeted. Nifty Neighbour is tested this spring in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki”, Annala mentions.
From Smart Cities to Care Cities?
Nifty Neighbour is a social platform that provides support to elderly people in their own neighborhoods. Users can offer and ask for help, have conversations, exchange and sell their belongings. For instance, people are already offering help with sewing or asking for other users to accompany them for a walk. The platform has been developed by Yhteismaa. Demos Helsinki as a cooperation partner is responsible for quality of trial runs.
What Nifty Neighbour actually does, is experimenting something new with things that are already familiar and recognized as workable. ”The current welfare state system relies mostly on public services to deliver care and support. Nifty Neighbour changes direction and connects this system to neighborhood action”, Annala points out. “People have always wanted to help each other, but urbanization has changed how people communicate and join together. Nifty Neighbour is an example of digital tools which can once again enable neighbour care.”
Demos Helsinki and Yhteismaa will develop Nifty Neighbour further in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki in the coming weeks.