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Ageing Finnish village welcomes retirees to boost population

Unfazed by demographics, Sysmä, a greying town in south-central Finland, is looking to attract more retirees in its latest effort to bring in new residents.

Sysmän valokuvaamo
Sysmä, home to some 4,000 people, is embracing demographic challenges posed by an ageing population. Image: Vihtori Koskinen / Yle

Some 40 percent of the roughly 4,000 people living in Sysmä are retired, and now the town is looking to attract even more silver-haired residents.

”Others have been telling us for years that we are headed for a catastrophe because of our elderly population, but retirees these days are so robust,” Sysmä municipal director Marketta Kitkiöjoki told Yle.

The municipality has launched a campaign to bring more elderly residents to the rural area. Over the past 20 years the town’s population has decreased by around 25 percent.

Kitkiöjoki said it simply makes financial sense for small and remote towns to attract people in their golden years, granted the massive reform package on social services and healthcare, known, as Sote, passes into law following next year’s regional elections.

The healthcare overhaul will give patients a right to choose between public and private healthcare providers, and according to Kitkiöjoki, communities with relatively sick and elderly populations also receive a higher proportion of government funds.

Bold ideas to revive town

This is not the first time Sysmä has found creative ways to ensure its survival. To entice people who left the area in their youth to move back, the municipality is offering low-priced building lots and relocation assistance for those contemplating living in the countryside.

Two years ago Sysmä outsourced all of its public healthcare to Attendo, a private firm. And just last month, Sysmä made headlines when it announced it was offering e-residency to every Finn, effectively easing access to municipal services for people summering in the area.

The tiny community has also launched its own digital currency which is accepted tender in some 30 local businesses.

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