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Life Cycle Café

Hämeenlinna, Finland

Life Cycle Café provides a weekly meeting place for retired volunteers and school students. Retired people take on tasks like helping the students with homework while the children do things like teach the retired people Information and Communications Technology skills. 

Addressing challenges of aging and long distances in remote areas

The Life Cycle Café addresses the challenges for remote areas at both ends of life. It provides volunteering opportunities for older members of the community while at the same time giving younger members of the community whose parents have long commutes to more central areas something to do in the afternoons.

Café as a meeting place for elderly and children

The Life cycle café was developed as a minipilot and was funded and supported by the City of Hämeenlinna with the aim of developing new service models for young people and children. The municipality of Iittala had recently been merged with Hämeenlinna and the city wanted to engage its new inhabitants in service development to ensure that the services respond to their needs. The Life Cycle Café remained in operation following the conclusion of that project. The café operates once a week and is run by local associations for retired people and attended by local school children. The retired volunteers may, for example, help children with their homework while the children in turn provide help with, for example, computer problems.

Meaningful activities and improved community spirit

The café is visited frequently and older people, children and parents all report finding it useful. The café has also improved cooperation and networks between the different associations which developed it, as well as between the associations, the municipality and the local school. The café also organises activities for people of all ages and, as such, has been found to have contributed to overall community spirit. Of particular note is the involvement of people who did not usually attend local events in the past.

Municipal project funding as a driver

The life cycle café is an example of an initiative that was developed by the local community, but was part of a project of the municipal organisation. It would perhaps not have been established without the City of Hämeenlinna development project that brought different actors together and encouraged and supported new ideas. Furthermore, the municipal contact person who supported the minipilot was an important resource. She was able to substantially reduce bureaucratic challenges by functioning as a link between the associations developing the original idea for the café and the municipality.

Key learnings for municipalities

This case shows that municipal leadership can inspire innovation in rural areas by responding to the needs of the local community. Even a small amount of funding, when combined with good support from the municipal organisation, can provide a springboard for the implementation of new ideas.

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Page last updated September 2016.