Whilst some may think of foreign background individuals as a homogenous group, naturally, in each and every country they are much more versatile and diverse than often imagined. When moving countries, issues such as learning a new language and difficulties in finding employment cause challenges for many. Of course, the lack of language skills and social circles may cause loneliness. Certain groups of foreign backgrounds are perhaps more often talked about in different contexts, whilst some of them, fall out of the scope of public attention. Among these groups are elderly individuals of foreign backgrounds.
The non-governmental organization, Jade Community (Jade yhteisö ry) in Helsinki, Finland was established in order to support elderly immigrants in the Capital Region of Finland and attempt to tackle some of these challenges. Jade Community is an association of elderly foreign-language speakers. Jade´s mission is to promote the well-being of the elderly and to engage in social advocacy work to ensure the equality and inclusion of the foreign-languages-speaking elderly population.
According to the executive director of Jade, Katja Ikonen some of the most prevalent challenges the clients of the organization face stem from the lack of language and IT skills, the lack of suitable methods for assessing the functional capacity of these individuals. People do not receive the service they need because the actual need for service does not arise (e.g., due to language problems). They might also miss suitable services, or appropriate resources to support them efficiently. Similarly to other immigrant groups in the Finnish society, these individuals often face prejudices, stereotypes and racism and are also lacking information on their rights and obligations in the Finnish society. Due to their migration backgrounds, they are often affected by negative experiences with authorities in their countries of origin.
Currently, Jade’s team consists of eleven employees from different backgrounds and language groups. In addition, five volunteer instructors are responsible for leading Finnish language clubs and a game club in the organization. With their work, Jade aims to fill in the gaps in the existing systems and promote the position and inclusion of older people who have moved to the Finnish society. Jade carries out age-friendly and peer-based group activities and engage in societal advocacy work to safeguard the equality of older people from diverse backgrounds. The purpose of association activities is to promote the comprehensive well-being, participation, and agency of foreign-language-speaking elderly people. Jade is a diverse and multilingual community of elderly people from different backgrounds and life situations who are easily left invisible in society. In the community, the voice of every member and participant counts. As Ikonen summarized “We develop a variety of ways to support the inclusion and opportunities of older people. We listen to the wishes, needs, and ideas of the elderly with sensitive ear and support independent activities that look like their own.”
So far, the ImmuHubs Team in Finland represented by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has reached out to three different groups in the Finnish society. One of these was the clientele of Jade. The Team has inquired information from over thirty elderly individuals on their vaccination status and knowledge about vaccines. As a follow-up step, it will provide information on vaccinations in Finland briefly, on the own languages of these individuals, to increase their knowledge on the matters, and thus, contribute to their health to an extent.