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Green Care in Finland



More than 80% of the Finnish population state that forests are important to them, according to the Ministry of Environment and the Finnish Environment Institute. Nature plays an important part in the life of the Finns and they value their natural biodiversity and Green Care above all else.

Because they see the relationship with nature as a human right, the Finnish government has taken giant steps to promote nature tourism and help the citizens’ physical and mental health through outdoor activities. This is else called Green Care.

iQneiform is looking to provide Green Care as a service too and to introduce it as a concept internationally. In this article, you will get a deeper understanding of this approach and how organisations carry out their Green Care operations.

In the next posts, we are going to dive deeper into how iQneiform is going to utilize Green Care methods in the promotion of well-being. But first, let’s give Green Care a conceptual framework and learn more about what it is and how the Finns have implemented it in their society.

What is Green Care?

The term Green Care describes activities performed in nature aimed at wellbeing and therapy. They are place-based practices that respond to societal needs and can be initiated by individuals, communities, or organizations. These initiatives are important because they help transform the mental and physical health of the participants.

Green Care’s objectives are not only the improvement of people’s happiness but also the strengthening of social and cultural relations. They promote the appreciation of the environment and close relationships in the community.

  • The main concerns that Green Care activities try to solve are:

  • The increasing demand for costly long-term care related to non-communicable diseases

  • The overriding phenomena of social alienation and exclusion intensified by globalization, rampant consumerism, and technological advancements

  • The growing need to promote healthy lifestyles and maximize contact with nature, in the context of an urbanizing world.

Why is Green Care beneficial?

Green care practices help with the prevention of health problems or rehabilitation. Activities in nature offer space for individual enjoyment that generates feelings of acceptance by keeping contact with animals and botanic elements. It helps the so-called patients feel part of an active community and create relationships of trust and alliance among them.

Among the social acceptance and fellowship, those involved also enhance their self-esteem by completing tasks without pressure which provides them with a rhythm and structure in their lives. Social and care farms, for example, give people the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that are tailored to the needs and capacities of each individual.

Multiple studies have shown that exposure to nature supports healing and recovery. Nature-based activities have been also proven effective for the improvement of the mental state of vulnerable groups such as people with mental disabilities, the demented elderly, recovering addicts, long-term unemployed, offenders serving community orders, and refugees.

Green Care also supports innovation and rural development along with health and well-being. The innovative dimensions of its practices illustrate Green Care’s potential to promote alternative solutions to biomedical models of health and social care.

Types of Green Care services in Finland

Nordic countries have set a great example in the sustainable utilization of nature for the improvement of overall well-being. Various nationwide projects have been launched in Finland to support Green Care as a service.

Such programs are intended for long-term rehabilitation and include activities that support both the mental and physical health of all people. They are mostly conducted by organizations concerned with well-being and nature tourism, like NGOs and youth research but also by other authorities.

Finish institutions provide a variety of Green Care services for its people that help them strengthen their well-being and active citizenship. These practices range from social and therapeutic horticulture, facilitated green exercise interventions, ecotherapy, animal-assisted therapy, care farming, wilderness therapy, and many others.

Despite the huge variety of services used for Green care, the element that links them all is the use of nature to produce health, social and educational benefits. Care farming and therapeutic horticulture, for example, enable people to participate in meaningful and productive activities that have many similar attributes to paid employment.

The benefits include physical activity, social interaction, daily routine, and so on. Green Care practices are similar to forms of sheltered employment which provide the same benefits but in a different environment. Finnish organizations don’t only rely on nature-based methods but also on animal-assisted therapy.

Connection with animals is also proven to maintain and help humans with their well-being and quality of life. These activities can be organized in different locations like in rural and agricultural environments, in the woods, in the garden, or even indoors and in urban areas. Involvement with animals adds a further dimension to social inclusion.

It has been proven a long time ago that interaction with animals helps children and adults reduce stress levels and the feeling of loneliness. Connecting with animals gives mood boosts and increases feelings of social support.

The promotion of human-animal relationships has been used as a coping mechanism for different vulnerable groups which we will talk more about below. The most well-known animal-assisted therapy in Finland is riding therapy.

It includes activities with horses to promote occupational, physical, and emotional growth in people with various disorders such as anxiety, autism, ADHD, dementia, depression, alcohol addiction and drug abuse, and other mental problems. Socio-pedagogical activities including horses are also common.

How do organizations carry out Green Care operations?

We are going to look at some examples in Finland that use Green Care practices. You can see in detail how the below organizations use nature-based activities and methods to help vulnerable groups.

Kiipula Vocational College

The first example is Kiipula, a vocational special education institution that offers upper secondary education and training for young people aged 16 to 20 with special needs. The lessons include forestry, gardening, and agriculture which are mostly held outdoors in a variety of habitats like forests, swamps, parks, lakesides, etc.

Their regular study day is different from other educational institutions as it mostly includes outdoor activities. The calming environment helps students learn, keep a peaceful frame of mind, and focus on the moment. The stress-reducing effects of natural environments and animals on them have been acknowledged by different student groups and the teaching staff.

Kiipula Vocational College has proven that animals can be meaningful companions to work with. They noticed that many students relied on them when having a bad day and needed someone to cuddle and talk to. The furry companions made a huge difference in students’ behavior and well-being. Students found it easier to work with animals since they are not as much required as a human companion.

Students that chose forestry and the agricultural field listed access to nature and physical exercise as the main reasons. Cutting down trees and forest clearing are the majority of activities held in forestry education. Lunch can be offered in school or if the destination is further away, it can be enjoyed in the forest by the fire.

School days in the forest or the farm can be physically rough for the students but at the same are associated with many positive effects.

Alkumaa Oy Green Care

Alkumaa is another organization that has children and young people with special needs in their focus. It offers an advantageous service model to support the everyday coping of families with special children through activities in nature based on Green Care methods.

Alkumaa provides children with natural situations of social growth and parents with tools to deal with challenging everyday situations. Their motto is “New beginnings and carries forward in everyday life”.

Some of the activities included are experiential farms and forest excursions. They serve diverse groups, from kindergarten to companies and communities, offering them relaxing and refreshing well-being days. Alkumaa also offers expert services such as training and lectures for events, with themes in Green Care activities.

Some last words

We hope this article helped you get a better understanding of what Green Care is and its most common practices. Becoming a part of iQneiform allows you to participate in webinars and seminars, and join private or group coaching sessions that will treat the concept of well-being and among them, Green Care as a service. To learn more about this concept read the next articles in our Green Care series.

For more information about iQneiform Green Care Services, please Contact Us.



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