Online lunch clubs are the start of a remote care revolution to reduce the spiralling costs of caring for older people
Its 11.30am on a midweek June morning in Helsinki, Finland. Duvi Leineberg, a remote care nurse, is doing the lunch rounds. But instead of jumping in a car and visiting each person one by one, she is sitting in an office looking at a large computer screen where she can see into seven peoples homes. Most are sitting at a table preparing to tuck into some food.
This is a virtual lunch group, set up to make sure older people receiving home care services in the city eat regularly and at the right time. Leineberg runs the session. She starts by checking everyone has their food and that it is warmed up. Some have soup, others have pre-prepared meals that have been delivered by home care services. People also sip coffee.
One screen shows an empty backdrop and she calls the home to check her client is all right. He walks past the screen but says he isnt hungry and doesnt want to eat right now. Leineberg then asks everyone if they have any plans for the afternoon. A few reply that they will go out for a walk.
A former hospital nurse, Leineberg sees the value of such groups. Firstly, the client feels like they are a part of a bigger thing. Its also guaranteed that they eat properly. If I spot anything that seems out of the ordinary, I can call the home care nurses who will pay them a visit if necessary.
Her clients are also fans of the lunch group. Riitta Koskinen, 80, says through a translator: Im old and living alone and its nice to have the company. We eat at the same time food tastes better when youre with others and Ive really enjoyed it. It makes me eat and its good to see other people.
Finland has a rapidly ageing population and recruitment problems in health and care. By 2070, one in three Finns is expected to be over 65. At the same time there has been a huge decline in the birth rate and the number of Finns of working age is expected to fall by around 200,000 by 2050. As a result, the demand for and cost of care services are growing while tax revenues are decreasing, leading politicians to warn that the Nordic model of highly state-funded cradle-to-grave social care will no longer be affordable.