Three people Nordic walking outdoors on a sunny day.

Panels developed online exercises for seniors – Healthy Boost project ended

The City of Helsinki participated in the Healthy Boost – Urban Labs for Better Health for All in the Baltic Sea Region – boosting cross-sectoral cooperation for health and wellbeing in the cities project funded by the European Regional Development Fund and completed in autumn 2021. The project developed a cross-sectoral collaboration model to promote health and wellbeing.

The City of Helsinki piloted the model as part of the “OmaStadi” participatory budgeting projects in 2020–2021. The pilot aimed to strengthen the participation of under-represented groups in social activities and decision-making and to build equal opportunities for influence.

Senior citizens involved in the development

City residents voted on the implementation of projects promoting physical activity among senior citizens in connection with the vote on participatory budgeting in Helsinki in autumn 2019. The cross-sectoral collaboration model was piloted in spring 2021 as one of the projects selected in the vote. The City of Helsinki organised three remote client panels on online exercise services for senior citizens. The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the exercise opportunities of senior citizens in particular, and the aim of the panels was to hear their views on the development of online exercise services.

In the panels, senior citizens get to discuss participation in the online exercise services, IT support, content, implementation methods, how to find information, and marketing and communication. The panels discussed, for example, the different models of online exercise and their pros and cons. Interaction, the possibility to ask for advice, social aspect and group spirit were raised as motivating factors for participation in the discussions.

Online exercise on the senior citizens’ terms

The most popular implementation method turned out to be the one where an instructor directs an online exercise to the participants’ homes in real-time and interacts with the participants. The content of the online exercise should be designed so that it is easy to participate at home without special equipment. The instructor should be prepared to instruct the participants in the use of digital equipment and express themselves clearly and calmly in a quiet environment. The best time slot for online exercise was found to be before noon.

Senior citizens felt that it was important to consider the functional ability of the target group in planning online exercises and offer alternative exercises. The panellists hoped for the online nature of the events to be clearly communicated and that the marketing should include attractive illustrations and highlight the interactivity aspect.

Panels provided advice and information for online exercise development

The results of the panels provide valuable information for the development of online exercise services for senior citizens. The opinions of the senior citizens and the content of the panels will benefit the planning of online exercises in future. The implementation of the panels provided city employees with experience in the organisation of client panels as part of the development of activities. Cooperation within the framework of the panels also created new contacts between various city actors.

The panels were co-organised by the Culture and Leisure division’s Sports Partnership and Development team and the Regional Participation team from Helsinki City Executive Office’s Participation and Citizen Information unit. Experts from the social and health care services and the adult education centre also participated in the panel work and the preparation of the materials.

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Healthy Boost EU project

Foto: Sakari Röyskö,  Helsinki City Material Bank.