ARTS and CULTURE COMPANIONS –
volunteers assisting older people to enjoy cultural events
together with them
City of Lahti, Cultural Center
Lahti Sept. 10, 2013
• The Cultural center of the city of Lahti started this one-year project in the fall
of 2011. I was resposible for organizing it.
• Our target was to create a new service for the older people who lived alone
and no longer felt comfortable leaving alone from their homes. At the same
time they were still in such good physical condition that they were able to
leave and enjoy the cultural event of their choice when assisted by the Arts
and Culture companion (later called ACC). The main aim was to create a
positive experience for both parties.
• The basic idea for this project was copied from the city of Jyväskylä where this
type of activity was started several years ago. Since Lahti is the city of modern
Finnish design, we also designed our own concept for the Arts and Culture
• Our partners in this process were two local voluntary work organizations
Lahden Lähimmäispalvelu and Marian Kammari together with four local
cultural organizations Lahti Symphony Orghestra, Lahti City Theatre, Main
Library and Lahti City Museum.
• In our ACC-service concept the tasks and responsibilities were devided as
– The two voluntary work organizations found the experienced volunteers
who were intrested in arts and culture in general and willing to
participate the special program that was put together by the Cultural
center. These organizations were to be contacted by the customers in
order to find a suitable ACC for their needs.
– The main responsibilities of the Cultural center were to organize the
special program for the ACCs together with the four local cultural
organizations, plan and execute various marketing measures and media
coverage. We were also the main point of sending, receiving and
forwarding information between different parties.
– Lahti Symphony Orghestra, Lahti City Theatre, Main Library and Lahti City
Museum organized an information evening each for th ACCs. We walked
through their premises, checked lifts and toilet facilities, seating
arrangements for people with special needs, etc. Of course the
repertoires of the season were introduced and the ACCs were able to ask
questions related to them. All services of the Main Library are free. The
three remining organizations offered special ticket prices and other
special conditions to the ACCs.
– The tasks of the ACCs were also agreed. They took contact with the
customer (old person) who had ordered the service or for whom the
service had been ordered. They agreed all the details related to the
event based on the needs of the customer (ordering tickets, informing of
different cultural events to choose from, timetable, etc). During the
cultural event that was agreed upon, all assistance required was provided
by the ACCs. They were also to pick up the customer from her home and
bring her back after the event.
– Customers themselves, their family members, service provider, etc. were
to contact the voluntary work organization to order the ACC-service. The
customer was to cover the following costs: transportation from her home
to the venue and back, tickets both for her and the ACC. Refreshments
were to be covered individually. It needs to be underlined that the
assistance and time of the ACC as such was free of charge.
• There was some controversy related to the fact that the service offered by the
ACCs wasn’t totally free to the customers. Unfortunately it wasn’t sustainable
to introduce such a service in Lahti.
• I want to point out that the ACCs were also kept informed about cultural
events where admission was free. So the money wasn’t an issue – it was
taking the initiative!
• The concept for the ACC-service was designed and it was time to put it into
action. After the special program all new ACCs were motivated and ready to
start working. Hundreds of information letters were distributed to older
people direct, to organizations that provide other services to the target group
we had defined when planning the ACC-concept, etc. Local newspapers and
radio channels covered this subject.
We hoped that the ACC-information would be spread through the grape wine:
good experiences would create more intrest.
• What were the results of the project and the status of the ACC-service?
During the year 2012 the ACCs were ordered 50 times and the cultural life of
about 80 old people was reactivated at least once. The ACC-service concept in
there and working: voluntary work organizations offer this service. The four
cultural organizations have their special offers to the ACCs still in place. The
Cultural center informs the ACCs twice a year about the current cultural
events in Lahti.
• More resourses = manpower would be needed to activate these older people
who live alone and would need assistance in leaving their homes in order to
do something enjoyable.
For these people need motivating, encouragement and empowerment in
order to take the iniative in using this type of services.
• I believe that through persistant work we’ll get long lasting results. However,
any new ideas how to activate our target group would be highly appreciated!