As the accordion starts to play the classic Finnish song titled “Satumaa-tango”, the residents soon join in a joyful singalong. Some of the staff and residents of the residential care home Hoiva Viikki, located in Helsinki’s Viikki, are gathered in the courtyard while many of the residents join in the singalong from the comfort of their own balconies. The on-going event was planned as the opening ceremony for an exceptional summer. The singer and accordionist Mari Kätkä has performed at the residential care home many times. Now she has arrived to host a singalong for the residents.
Orvokki Vaine and Pekka, seated next to her, are listening to Kätkä’s delightful singing.
“I have come to listen to Mari’s singing many times before. I am a big fan of the different kinds of events organised by this care home,” Vaine says.
Both residents have lived in Hoiva Viikki for numerous years.
“I like the peace and quiet, but on the other hand, when you feel like seeing people, there is always company here,” Vaine continues.
Brightening up the exceptional spring
During the afternoon, Kätkä makes a round and stops to sing in front of each building block. Before the performance, the property manager Marjaana Nemlander and the director of activities Anna-Liisa Louhelainen have handed out a pink flaming katy for each resident as a gift to initiate the summer season.
“Normally, at this time of the year, we have organised some sort of a work party, but due to the current coronavirus situation we had to come up with alternative plans. We thought with Anna-Liisa that it would be nice to hand out flowers for the residents. As we were thinking about our options, we had soon brainstormed a whole-day event!” Nemlander says and laughs.
Nemlander and Louhelainen agreed that in the middle of such exceptional times, it was important to cheer up the residents, which helped with the planning of the event. The residents have always been active to organise different kinds of events, such as flea markets and exercise classes.
“Now they have had to stay inside by themselves, which is why we wanted to organise something fun for them.”
Lumo’s residential care home Hoiva Viikki normally organises lots of different kinds of events. A Lumo Trainer normally visits the building every week to organise exercise classes for the residents, who actively take part in the classes. During the coronavirus situation, the Lumo Trainer has handed out exercise instructions as printouts, but as the summer approaches, the trainer will again arrive to exercise with the residents in the yard of the building.
“If the weather allows, the residents can do a chair workout on the terrace,” Anna-Liisa Louhelainen says.
In the future, the services of the Lumo Trainer will be provided through the building’s own resident channel.
“We will set up a TV channel that can be viewed in the residents’ homes. This is an important initiative as some of the residents are not able to move much. By utilising the new TV channel, we can provide them with morning assemblies and other events without them having to leave their homes,” Louhelainen says.
Inspired by the sense of community
The party group moves over to the balconies at the end of the building. A man on the balcony above waves and requests to hear the Finnish song titled “Karjalan heili”, and soon enough, the accordion starts playing. A few passers-by stop to wonder and admire the joyful atmosphere of the care home. It is easy to look after safe distances as the vast majority of the audience is enjoying the event’s atmosphere from their glazed balconies.
Seppo has lived in the care centre for about four years. As he sits down for a while to enjoy the music, his dog called Osku waives its tail and follows the example of its owner. Seppo will soon take over the grilling duties – the active resident often takes part in various duties of the building and has promised to grill sausages for the residents after the accordion concert.
“My daughter convinced me to move here because she lives close by. At first, I thought that the idea of living in a care home did not sound very appealing. However, I shortly discovered that moving here was truly an excellent decision, almost like a jackpot! The views and the community spirit are the best parts of living here,” Seppo says.
Seppo also appreciates the fact that in the care home, there is always help available.
“Last year, I had a cerebral infarction. Because the nurses arrived immediately, I was able to go to the hospital very quickly and, therefore, I recovered well. If I had been living by myself, the situation could have ended up a lot worse.”
Seppo points out that for the community spirit, active participation is required from the residents.
“In the beginning, I hardly took part in the activities, but shortly I discovered that the more I participated, the better I got to know other residents,” he explains.
Singing as the joining force
The grill is slowly warming up and the accordion plays for a while longer. Kätkä plays in front of each block of houses for approximately 15 minutes and receives loud applause after each performance. Some of the residents follow her along in order to hear the entire concert.
In Kätkä’s opinion, organising a singalong during such exceptional times was more important than usual.
“The residents were more excited than usual to hear the music, which has been very moving. I realised that I have really missed the residents during the spring. And many of them have missed singing,” she says.
The residents have listened to the songs performed by Kätkä in their youth.
“They love the songs and like to move to the familiar music. It feels great to witness someone with a dementing illness stamping their foot when listening to a familiar tune”, Kätkä says after playing in front of the building with a unit for residents with dementing illnesses.
Even though the exceptional circumstances will continue during the summer, more events will be organised at Hoiva Viikki. The residents have been provided with planting boxes on the yard of the care centre, and many of them have already reserved a shift for watering the plants. Seppo promises to keep the grill warm during the summer.
“I am planning to grill at least on public holidays. The residents have a recreational fund for collecting money for shared activities. The sausages are funded with this money, so there is no need to carry coins around. You can just come along to enjoy the good food and excellent company.”