I love traveling, seeing new things, and meeting wonderful people along the way. The relationships formed during travel are some that I cherish the most. Certainly, COVID has put a damper on that for all of us. In 2019 I was scheduled to go to Finland and present my From Can’t to Can Do! Montessori for Aging and Dementia program. Of course, that was cancelled, and after rescheduling twice, I am pleased to be leaving next week for Helsinki! A group of wonderfully determined women who I first met in Prague are hosting my visit in order pioneer change in elder care. Their group is called Muisti Montessori and here is their story:
The first From Can’t to Can Do! workshop in the Nordics will take place on September 30th and October 1st in Helsinki, Finland. Together with Jennifer Brush, a small group of Finnish enthusiasts have worked for 2 years in order to bring Montessori to the Finnish dementia care.
Several members of the group had attended the Montessori World Congress in 2017 where Jennifer and the other Montessori for Dementia and Aging trainers were speaking on this topic at the Congress for the very first time. This got them thinking and ideas rolled around in their heads. They contacted Jennifer to discuss how they might bring this approach to Finland. Enormously encouraged by meeting Jennifer in a video meeting it was decided that the team, together with the Finnish Montessori Association would start spreading the word and preparing a workshop.
In the summer of 2019 Päivi Soikkeli, the former chair of the Finnish Montessori association, Henna Jalovaara, an occupational therapist, and Crystal Nuuttila, a Montessori playschool director set up the Muisti Montessori (Memory Montessori) team. They all had a personal interest in making a change for the better in the Finnish dementia care and saw that the Montessori philosophy would work perfectly if it could be implemented in a care setting. They sat down many times together with Eini Hämäläinen and reflected on the chicken and egg problem of organizing a workshop and raising enough interest in the field.
In order to strengthen the team working on a voluntary basis, more people were warmly welcomed. Arja Kiili, Riikka Erkkilä, and Marja Isokangas joined in and have contributed to the work in various valuable ways. Arja, being one of the Finnish pioneers in Montessori education for children, has shared her experience in implementing a new philosophy creating new Montessori materials. Also, Riikka is a Montessori guide and has now started studies in Development and Management of Health Care and Social Services. Marja has made a career in brands, marketing and service design. She has worked with a care home, Lauttasaaren senioritalo in Helsinki for a couple of years in changing the culture for a more resident centered one. The results have been excellent, and the staff are engaged and hoping to get even more tools for person-centered care in the first Finnish Montessori pilot that they will start in October.
We all have a very personal reason for wanting to help spark this better way of life for people with dementia, to live their lives more fully and improve care communities. These larger movements often begin with a small group of people feeling very personal and emotional about something. The Muisti Montessori team is excited about the upcoming workshop. There has been quite a lot of interest towards Montessori in the field and over 40 people are going to attend the workshop.
I am thankful for the determination persistence of these women who want so dearly to enhance the care of older adults in Finland and bring this philosophy to their country. Stay tuned, next month I share the details of what will surely be an unforgettable trip.