Written by Susanna Lehtovaara
As the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic started to affect people all over Europe, we in Finland also needed to re-evaluate our work and tasks ahead. Perhaps unlike the rest of European societies, in Finland we were able to begin some group activities after the summer holidays although with strict safety protocols and hygienic rules (face masks, safety distances etc.). Many of our older group members were happy to see people after the social distancing and restrictions of the spring. Up here in the north we were able to continue some activities onward to the autumn, but eventually in the beginning of October, we also needed to shut down all the activities once more. As our group facilitators continued contacting the older group members via phone, Whatsapp or Wechat messages or through an online group activity, the rest of us were able to focus on doing more advocacy work with one another.
As you perhaps read from the previous ENIEC Newsletter, we have established the Finnish Consortium of Intercultural Elderly Care together with 6 different organizations here in Finland. In this exceptional autumn we have been working in a fast pace in advocating equity of older migrants in Finnish society. The members of the Consortium have met with multiple important national organizations in order to make our work known and to affect some concerns that there are with older migrants and how they are seen, or actually not seen, almost invisible in our society and the Nordic welfare state. We have worked closely together and not every member of the consortium have been able to take part in every meeting or discussion. But the excellent thing in having a close network is that you don’t always need or have to take part in everything yourself, but you can trust that your network and colleagues will discuss important issues on your behalf as well. Together we are stronger and we simply have bigger impact. The network of our consortium have given us more spaces and more ways of making efficient advocacy work. In other words, we can be present in many different situations, meetings and networks, and hence bring out our ideas and expertise more than before.
In this peculiar autumn, we have had excellent discussions about the situation of older migrants in Covid epidemic in Finland. We have met the authorities and researchers of The National Health Institute (THL) and the City of Helsinki, to discuss the means of getting proper information about Covid-19 to language minorities and especially to the older people of those minorities. In these meetings we have strongly stressed that more health research is needed within Finland about minorities and especially the older people in those minorities. The problem in both health research has largely been that in the national level population research the language minorities are not taken into account properly. Older migrants drop out from both older population studies and minority population studies.
As the consortium we have also taken up a photography project, where a photographer Satu Juvonen is taking pictures of our older members and collecting their stories into a photo exhibition which will be published both in physical form here in Finland and in an online form that we might be able to share with you. Here you can see a small sneak peek to the project which will continue next year. We have also written several small articles to magazines and in online publications (mainly in Finnish) and together we have taken part in a two-day long online event called “Integration” with a presentation of our work as the Consortium of Intercultural Elderly Care in Finland.
We have still plenty to do and we have some very important visits ahead of us. In the beginning of December, we’re having a discussion with the vice-mayor of the City of Helsinki and we’re meeting with the equality ombudsman and personnel as well to discuss the equality and equity situation with older people. We have had a speedy autumn and these discussions and experiences have led us to be even more inspired and excited to continue our work to the new year. Though the financial situation of our organizations are yet to be seen and some of our funding might be in jeopardy, we’ll keep on being active and push forward with our work to enhance the position of older migrants and minorities, and to work toward a more just and equal society for each and everyone of us.