by Timo Strandberg
These winter weeks are usually very busy for Finnish geriatricians and often quite cold weather (possibly down to minus 30 degrees Celsius) does hinder us. Actually, this winter we have enjoyed quite nice weather with some snow and reasonable temperatures. In January-February we have some regional doctor’s meetings and the 2-day “Geriatricians’ Days” are traditionally during the last week of January. The Board of Finnish Geriatricians (SG) organizes these days, and the board members rotate every 3 years from one University city (with medical faculty, 5 in Finland) to another. In 2014, geriatricians from the Turku region had their third time and they had made the congress especially glamorous. Turku, situated some 200 km from Helsinki in Southwestern Finland, used to be the capital of Finland during the Sweden-Finland kingdom and up to early 19th century, they have medieval castle and a very active university with high-class and sophisticated (PET center etc.) geriatric research, too.
There were some 250 participants, most of them geriatricians from all over Finland, who listened to mostly very clinic-oriented and interactive presentations. Some highlights: orthopedic surgeons are the first among the operative professionals who have noticed the silver tsunami in their everyday work. We heard very practical advice on nephrology, ophthalmology, otology, and oral health. The latter is actually vitally affecting the quality of life in nursing home residents. On historical grounds, the Turku Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishopry of the Finnish Church (where majority of Finns belong to), and therefore it was quite appropriate for the Archbishop of Finland to have a say. He gave a very insightful lecture on ageing, the humanity of which was highly appreciated by our colleagues.
The gala dinner was in the Renaissance style in the Turku Castle, with also a historic Royal Couple of Finland appearing, new Board of SG welcomed and photographed with the old one, and the evening was finished with live music and dancing, which is known to have beneficial physical, psychological and social dimension, also in old age. The band was not especially silent, so the benefits may not be extended to hearing, though.
After the weekend, mostly filled with various EUGMS-related activities, I next attended a 2 1/2-day consensus seminar organized by the Finnish Academy and the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim. The aim of these seminars is to prepare a consensus paper on an important medical topic – this year “Old age death” – under what circumstances can death be acclaimed to old age? – and then implement this paper to media and policy makers.
The seminar involves lectures by various experts, geriatricians, pathologists, other health care professionals, lawyers, and journalists, and a writing group prepares the consensus paper during the meeting. Death in old age is a very important topic, how to handle end of life and make difficult decisions, living will, juridical problems, palliative care, role of frailty. Is it possible to die of old age or should a specific diagnosis be sought for every case. The consensus topic was this time gloomy, but surroundings of the meeting attractive and peaceful: Finnish-Swedish culture center Hanasaari with four-star hotel facilities on a small island some 3 kilometers from the Helsinki city center. The internat-type arrangements help intensive work with discussions often extending late in the evening, interrupted by sauna and possibly some visit in clean white snow. As you well know, slight lowering of the body temperature extends life – at least in mice.