Finnish quality high at unique retirement venue
THERE'S a bloke who lived out Lightning Ridge way who when he heard about Finncare packed up all his belongings and hot footed it to Brisbane, to arrive uninvited at the Thornlands facility.
Tervetuloa the sign says. Welcome! It was all this Finnish man needed.
You see, Finncare is the only one of its kind in Australia and its focus is on providing retirement living and aged care support for Finnish people.
Its residents come from various points around Australia. Finnish migrants originally came to Victoria during the 1850s for the gold mining. They also settled in mining towns like Mount Eliza. Those that came later worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
In the 2016 Census there were 7711 Finnish born people recorded resident in Australia and a further 28,170 with Finnish ancestry.
Finncare general manager Peter Worboyes said because the facility is catering for a predominantly Finnish population, "it's incumbent on us to make sure what we deliver is authentic".
Close to 90 per cent of the residents are Finnish. "We do sometimes have non-Finnish people here, but the thing that is attractive to Finnish community is about 35 per cent of our staff are from Finnish heritage and can speak the language," Mr Worboyes said.
"So they can understand the culture a lot better and they are also able to speak their native tongue. As people are ageing, they tend to lose their ability with their second language and they revert back to their mother tongue. It means that they are able to be more easily understood, so we have a better strike rate at delivering on their needs when they come to live with us."
The remainder of the staff are Australians which means non-Finnish residents are catered for as well.
Finncare has over 500 clients across its 23-unit retirement village, residential aged care facility and home care services.
The Thornlands facility offers a range of culturally relevant experiences. A Finnish language online program covering music, religion, arts and readings is regularly streamed into the village. The Finnish news is also live streamed each morning.
On site there is the suitably named Poro, or reindeer, Cafe. "We tried to be a point of connection with Finland," Mr Worboyes said. "You can't buy fish and chips; it's Finnish fare.
"We sell frozen meals that are made in our commercial kitchen which are Finnish casseroles. All the things we make in our kitchen for our residents are in the main the things that they would eat at home. For example, they will have a glass of milk with their lunch, but it will be buttermilk." The spices used in the food are often sourced from Finland.
The residents play Finnish games such as Molkky, which is a simple but tactical throwing game. They also play Finnish versions of Western games such as quizzes about Finland.
In addition to the fully-equipped gym and hydrotherapy centre are highly utilised saunas. "We have three saunas and they get used very regularly," Mr Worboyes said.
Mr Worboyes said the social activities are not or Finnish-specific. There are a variety of activities which successfully incorporate the English and Finish speaking residents. "In the community the perception might be that we are somehow completely different to other aged care offerings out there when in fact what we do is all of those things as a matter of course and then add the cultural aspects to it as well," Mr Worboyes said.