Helsinki help on the phone. Photo: Katja Tähjä / Helsinki City

Helsinki Helpline starts operations, aims to call every resident over 80

On 20 March, the City of Helsinki teamed up with local parishes and charity organisations to announce a new campaign for reaching out to the self-isolating elderly population. The service came together in the space of just one week, with the first phone calls made already on 27 March.

Volunteers working for the Helsinki Helpline campaign have contacted the first elderly residents of the city by phone to collect their possible requests for help. The phone conversations have also given members of Helsinki’s senior community the chance to talk about how they are coping and how their daily lives have been affected by the coronavirus lockdown. During the calls, the respondents are also asked if they feel they might need psychological support during these uncertain times.

A second element of the campaign, a phone-in service for residents over 70 years of age, will be launched on 30 March. For as long as the coronavirus crisis continues, older people in Helsinki can call into the service for a chat or request help with errands and other everyday needs.

Starting next Monday, people over 70 can call the Helsinki Helpline at tel. 09 310 10020 every weekday from 9 am to 4 pm.

“I doubt that Helsinki has ever come together so quickly to help people in such a big way. The Helsinki Helpline is a tremendous effort on the part of Helsinki city employees, the employees of Helsinki-area parishes and a growing number of organisations and volunteers. At the same time, it’s a wonderful demonstration of the power of coming together and community,” said Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.  

It is very important that everyday errands such as trips to the shop and the pharmacy continue to be carried out for the elderly residents of the city who have been told to stay home during this time.

HOK-Elanto and Genesys join in the effort

The Helsinki Helpline campaign gained a new partner, retailer S-Group’s HOK-Elanto cooperative, which has opened a new grocery order service as part of the Helsinki Helpline campaign. The food supplier will work with Helsinki’s parishes to organize food deliveries for Helsinki residents over 70. Participants will be able to order a week’s worth of groceries over the phone and have it delivered to their front door by municipal or parish employees or campaign volunteers.

“When the Mayor first announced the campaign and invited local organisations to join in, we were soon contacted by Jukka Ranua, HOK-Elanto’s e-commerce development manager. In an amazingly quick period, he and his team had come up with the idea of a telephone order service for the elderly and organized it. This helped us to get an operative model in place, in the midst of all this coronavirus commotion. The HOK-Elanto grocery service has now become a critical working component of the Helsinki Helpline service,” said Tiina Hörkkö, Helsinki Helpline’s director.

In addition to the telephone service, 18 coordination points have been set up around Helsinki to organise the various orders, trips to the shops and distribution.

“The points will operate out of parish premises and coordinate the shop runs as well as safe delivery to the front door of seniors’ homes. Older people don’t have to come to the locations, because a phone call will ensure that they get the help they need,” said Juha Rintamäki, Director of the Parish Union of Helsinki.

Special attention will be paid to the safety of the seniors and everyone else who is devoting time to the Helsinki Helpline project. This extends from privacy protections associated with the calls to practical precautions against the spread of infection. Calls to residents over 80 will always be made from the same 09 310 10020 number, and callers will be City of Helsinki or Helsinki parish employees who have received training. Volunteers visiting shops and making deliveries will be wearing Helsinki Helpline logos and will not enter anyone’s homes, but leave the items outside the residents’ front doors. As an added hygiene measure, no one will handle cash.

Alongside its retail support, Helsinki Helpline will also receive major assistance in the area of call centre technology from Genesys, which has made its Genesys Cloud platform available to the campaign for a three-month period free-of-charge.

Some 80,000 Helsinki residents are over the age of 70, and 27,000 of these are past 80. The Helsinki Helpline service not only makes a phone-in service available to assist those over 70, but also includes a campaign to call everyone over 80 on the phone and check in.

The Helsinki Helpline campaign is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the employees of the City of Helsinki and Helsinki’s parishes, along with many charity organisations and volunteers. Hundreds of people will come together, united by their desire to be of help during this extraordinary time.