Empowerment of older adults

Ulrika Häggström, Susanne Jungerstam & Annika Wentjärvi

The Novia University of Applied Sciences is partner of the SEMPRE project, which aims at providing social service providers in rural areas with better tools and solutions for service innovation in the Baltic Sea Region. Each project partner focuses on one group of social service users at risk of marginalization in their country and/or neighborhood. Novia UAS focuses on the end user group of older adults living at home in rural areas, mainly in the Ostrobothnia region, most of whom are not marginalized at this time. However, tools and strategies that enhance older adults’ opportunities to stay integrated in society is of importance both in terms of wellbeing in later life, and in terms of multiple preventive effects generated by inclusion and participation in society.

As a result of the demographic changes and strained budgets that most present-day Finnish municipalities are experiencing today, it has become a challenge to uphold adequate social services for all. Especially people in vulnerable life situations are strongly affected by this development. The SEMPRE project – SEMPRE being an abbreviation of the project full title “Social Empowerment in Rural Areas” – aims at improving the infrastructure of social service by encouraging service producers to involve end users in the design and delivery of social service. The main aim of the project is to build organizational capacity for empowerment, and to equip social service provider staff with tools and methods to involve service users in their daily work. By giving the end users an opportunity to be actively involved in the design of new services, we hope to change end users’ life situation for the better, and strengthen their ability to get involved in social innovation process.

We hope to improve and strengthen older adults by initializing and creating new services as well as to improve already existing services, giving older adults the opportunity to be actively involved in the design and delivery of social services important to a quite diverse group of older people.

Each project partner within the SEMPRE project has created a Local Empowerment Network (LEN), consisting of representatives from public and private actors, as well as from the third sector. LEN coordinators approach end users among others with the help of LEN representatives, and together they identify end users’ service needs and ideas in respect of empowerment needs and empowerment tools. By joining forces of both users and providers of social service, in identifying the needs as well as empowerment tools of end users, the aim is to inspire providers and end users to create new, innovative solutions. The LEN coordinated by Novia UAS consists of representatives that work with older adults, both on a day-to-day basis and on a policy developing level.

Photo: Ann-Britt Pada

In addition to above mentioned activities, project activities also include a work package aiming at initiating and supporting micro projects, best described as pilot projects and examples of end user driven social services. To date, two demonstration micro projects have been concluded, one in cooperation with rehabilitation services of the Municipality of Mustasaari and the other one in cooperation with Vaasan seudun yhdistykset. A third micro project, focusing on end user driven activities for older adults, answering to the need for coordinated information, has been conducted during the autumn. Moreover, further micro projects based on interests and needs expressed in workshops held with the end user group have been developed in cooperation with different stakeholders, and are now in progress.

Lessons learnt from micro projects, as well as from other work packages focusing on service development tools, training needs and the development of organizational tools, will be the basis for the primary outputs of the SEMPRE project in February 2019. The primary outputs will include an “Empowerment handbook” containing practical applications of end user involvement for social service providers. For current and future social service provider staff, training modules for raising staffs’ empowerment competence will be arranged. An “Organizational roadmap for empowerment” is aimed at helping to inspire the leadership of social service providers to rethink their role in the social economy. The last primary output consists of recommendations for policymakers aiming at reliable, affordable and accessible service infrastructure in rural areas.

The SEMPRE-project is funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020, project partners and in some cases with national resources, in Finland including the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Lead partner is Diaconie of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany and project leader is Doris Sheer. For more information about the SEMPRE project, please visit the project webpage: www.sempre-project.eu


Ulrika Häggström, Project Researcher, Novia University of Applied Sciences
Susanne Jungerstam, Principal Lecturer, Novia University of Applied Sciences
Annika Wentjärvi, R&D Manager, Novia University of Applied Sciences

Cover photo: Marjaana Pato. (CC BY-NC 2.0)