Maintaining functioning

An older man Nordic walking.


Functioning is a balance between a person’s capabilities, goals and their living and operating environment. Good functioning enables a more independent life and enables the person to engage in hobbies and other activities the person finds important.
What is functioning?

Promoting and maintaining the population’s functioning requires collaboration

Promoting and maintaining the population’s functioning requires a large group of parties that represent different sectors of the society, ranging from urban planning and developers of the service system to members of volunteer organisations. The municipality should ensure that the housing and living environments support the life, well-being and participation of older people whose functioning is impaired.

The task of the social and health care services is to ensure that the functioning of an older person is maintained by various preventive means and rehabilitation. As a person’s functioning weakens, it is supported by appropriate services and carefully selected aids.

Impaired functioning increases the risk of accidents, such as tripping and falling. A safe environment, prevention of falls, good nutrition and maintaining functioning improve a person’s capability to perform their everyday chores.
Read more: Safely at All Ages - Programme for the Prevention of Home and Leisure Injuries 2021–2030 

How to promote the functioning of older people?

The functioning of older people can be promoted for example by

  • prevention and good care of diseases
  • good nutrition
  • supporting exercise or other activity
  • early identification of problems in functioning and making the necessary interventions
  • modifying the living environment to support functioning. 

Supporting functioning and living at home can also restrict the increase of expenditure. 

Well-being can be improved with early intervention on memory problems

When memory problems are identified early enough, lifestyle interventions can prevent the cognitive decline and improve the health and well-being of older people as a whole.
FINGER model – To prevent cognitive impairment and disability among older people (Finger research project web page)

Psychological well-being affects the functioning of older people

Experiences over the course of life, such as loneliness, various losses, diseases brought about by age and deficits in functioning can impair psychological well-being and the person’s ability to cope. When the resources of an older person are not sufficient, they need help from family members, volunteers and also professionals.

The signs of depression in an older person can be difficult to identify. The signs might be confused with the symptoms of other diseases that become more common as a person ages, such as memory disorders. However, depression is not a part of normal ageing.

Supporting the mental health of an older person can mitigate their need of other services.

According to the Healthy Finland study in 2022:

  • 10 % of men and 13 % of women over 75 felt lonely 
  • 9 % of men and 11 % of women over 75 reported that they experience severe mental strain.

When the loneliness of older people is mitigated by activities performed in groups, the need for other services diminishes.

Healthy Finland Survey indicators in the Sotkanet indicator bank


  • by maintaining a balanced and healthy diet
  • by engaging in diverse physical and mental activities
  • by participating in social events and meeting people
  • by reducing excess weight, and avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption.