The lobby of K-Supermarket Okeroinen in Lahti is bustling. It’s Friday, which means Aino’s Room is about to open and welcome local senior citizens. Like every week, Kauno Malinen, 91, is among the first to arrive. He was the one who gave the retailer, Kristiina Kanervo, the idea of setting up a meeting place for the elderly.
“While visiting the shop, Kauno told me that as the oldest man in the village, he really didn’t have many people to talk to other than the staff at the store. This gave me the idea of recreating an aspect of a traditional village shop by setting up a place where people could get together,” says Kristiina Kanervo.
The “village living room” was named Aino’s Room after Kristiina Kanervo’s grandmother. “Aino was very hospitable, and would always have a pot of coffee at the ready,” says Kristiina.
The local Päijät-Häme memory and carers’ associations got involved, and Kesko provided an empty space on the store premises. Coffee and refreshments are on the retailer. Aino’s Room is run by a group of volunteers, including Sirkka Ekros, 76, and Arja Lehto, 72, who are here this Friday.
“Every time I come here, I realise just how important this place is to people. Without Aino’s Room, nothing much would happen around here,” says Arja Lehto.
Another volunteer, Timo Vuori, 53, is sitting at the table with Kauno Malinen and Eila Järvinen, 83. He comes over every week to chat with Aino’s Room visitors, explaining:
“This is the highlight of the week. It’s family, it’s home, it’s a living room. Loneliness can be deadly, people are meant to be around each other. Aino’s Room gives us a chance to get together and that brings people tremendous joy.”
Some 30-40 people come over to Aino’s Room every week to chat, have coffee and play memory games. Sometimes there’s live music. The room was especially packed last year when everyone got together to celebrate Kauno’s 90th birthday. Kauno was pleased: “There was soup and over a hundred people showed up.”
Once everyone has had their coffee and caught up on the latest news, it’s time to start the weekend with a cheerful “See you soon!”