Following a series of high-profile scandals, the private companies in charge of some of Finland’s worst-performing care homes have decided to rebrand them as escape rooms for the elderly and infirm.
For Jalo Aalto, director of Despera Care Homes, this development is long-overdue:
“After the stinging criticism we received last year, we realised that there was a fatal flaw at the heart of our service provision.”
“No, not putting profit before human wellbeing, but taking human wellbeing too seriously. We’ve focused too much on the welfare, it’s now time to focus on the well-fun as well.”
The escape room experiences combine problem-solving with the visceral thrill of life-threatening emergencies. They cover almost every aspect of care-home life, whether the provision of medicine, access to toilets, or requesting staff assistance.
Nuutti Sademies, Senior Escapologist at Puzzle Jungle (formerly Little Moonbeam Villas), gave an example of the sort of games awaiting the residents:
“Let’s say you fall out of bed in the middle of the night. In the past, you’d have to spend a few hours steeped in pain and your own urine before the day shift found you. Now, instead, you get to play “Magic Mayhem”: solve the clues scattered around your room and our very own care genie will come to your aid.”
“But hurry, because there’s only one care genie, yet many other floor-bound residents like you.”
The development has faced a mixed reaction in the care homes themselves. Granny Naski broadly approved, commenting:
“I used to take it for granted that I would get my heart medicine every day. Playing “Drug Tornado” has created an added sense of jeopardy, and makes my continued existence so much more rewarding.
However, Grandpa Raskila, who has been trapped in a store room for three days trying to solve the “Feeding Frenzy” challenge, was less positive:
“I’m confused, cold and starving, so very little seems to have changed.”
“The only difference seems to be that now every half an hour someone comes past cackling and speaking in riddles about baby sharks.”
Despera’s decision has faced a backlash from critics who claim that the firm is exploiting the suffering of the old and vulnerable. This is absolutely not the case, contests Jalo Aalto:
“It’s not as if we’re dressing our valued residents up as serial killers and opening the homes as immersive escape experiences for the public.”
“No, that would be grossly misguided: with all their moaning and decaying skin they’d be far better as zombies.”
“Then we could monetise visiting hours: imagine the excitement on little Taimi’s face when she sees Grandma advancing towards her smeared in pig’s entrails. That’s got to be worth at least 10€ a time.”
The story: Richard Richardson, provincial correspondent