General Direktor Keiko Sugi, a 64 years young energic little woman, is responsible of an astonishing experience she created with the social establishment Kotoen in Edogawa, in the suburb of Tokyo. A hundreds of youngest kids share their daily life with some 60 old residents in this establishment.
Sorry, I could not find any photo of Keiko Sugi.
Every category of age has a waiting list with more than 100 persons wanting to joint this experience. Question: how long will it take that this experience is imitated? Here a description by Jacqueline Dix, reported in December 2004 on her first-hand experiences of intergenerational work in Japan.
Old and young in Japan – Working With Older People, In February 2003 I took part in a ‘Young Core Leader of Civil Society’ programme organised by the Japanese government, which invited 39 people from Britain, America and Denmark working in the voluntary sector with older people, young people and disabled people to come and share their experiences with young people developing these organisations in Japan. The Japanese voluntary sector, referred to as ‘non-profit organisations’ (NPOs), is at an early stage of development, with legislation promoting voluntary sector activity only being passed in 1998. Their government wishes to encourage the sector to take on intergenerational work to ensure people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve the communities they live in. This article highlights some of the innovative intergenerational work coming out of Japan.
Multiple use: Pioneering intergenerational work has been undertaken in Edogawa City (a Tokyo neighbourhood). The ward had one of the highest percentages of older people living there with a corresponding low number of people of working age. To encourage people of working age to move to the area, free child-care was introduced. As a result, the composition of the population has changed, with a substantial increase in the numbers of people of working age residing there.
In Edogawa City can be found the highly impressive Kotoen Facility. Kotoen is a facility for multigenerational living, providing both day-care for children of pre-school age and a home for older people with care needs. The facility has twin mottoes of ‘fureai’ (being in touch) and ‘daikazoku’ (large extended family), which can be seen in all aspects of its work.
Kotoen Facility: Kotoen happened by accident. In 1976 a nursery school was built on the same site as the residential care home. Over time, these two began to plan joint events but it was not until 1987 that the two became truly integrated. Keiko Sugi, the chair of the Kotoen board of directors, believes the joining came about by lots of grassroots working. Staff at the nursery and the residential home wanted to encourage respect for older people and to counteract negative images of older people as ‘dirty’, ‘untouchable’ and ’strange’. The Ministry of Health eventually agreed to the Kotoen Facility and, although it initially feared that illnesses would spread from the older people to the young and advocated building a separating wall, neither event happened.
The Kotoen Facility has 89 full-time staff and 67 part-time staff. The maximum capacity of the home is 50 residents with 16 short-stay places. It provides day-centre services for 45 older people including 20 with dementia, and there are rehabilitation and exercise amenities. The nursery school takes 100 children.
The Facility aims to keep its older residents as mentally and physically active as possible. There are combined daily exercises for the young and old, which include disabled children and adults. After morning exercises the children and residents shake hands and then pursue different activities with each other such as tag and board games, or go for walks. Every weekday there is a session in which the older residents tell stories about the Old days’ to the children.
The Kotoen Facility residential care home has become extremely popular and currently has a threeyear waiting list. In Japan 12 other care homes have since been developed on this model.
Conclusion: Intergenerational work is developing around positive ageing in Japan. Indeed, according to the World Health Organisation Japan has the most fit and healthy older population. I met with representatives from numerous older people clubs including the aptly named Wonderful Ageing Club, which encourages and supports older people in social activities, including volunteering with younger people in such fields as environmentalism, community development and traditional culture. The Wonderful Ageing Club has an individual membership of 20,000. It is now in its fifteenth year and has instigated 270 active groups throughout Japan. Many of its members are active in the NPOs, and so are still contributing to the development of Japanese society. Jacqueline Dix, Policy and Research Officer, Age Concern Cymru
Japan Intergenerational Uninty Association (JIUA).