A couple of women residing in Japan renovating a retirement home might actually come as news to most people. But they are doing so in the hopes of making it more live-able for the elderly. This retirement home is shaped in the form of five huts that come together to build a giant home. This structure is called the Jikka, and was designed by Japanese based architect Issei Suma, on the behest of Nobuko Suma- his mother.
Nobuko and her friend Sachiko had worked in the humanitarian sector for the last decade. But their biggest worry was who would look after them when they needed support? This is precisely why they asked Nobuko’s son to build a retirement home that would serve their needs well. Jikka is situated near Mt. Fujiyama, and since the 1980s has been a major retreat for people living in the urban-scape. Recently, this place has served as a prime location for retirement homes.
Since this home is going to shelter the elderly, the construction had to be different. There are no stairs in this home, and most of the baths are shaped in a spiral way- making it easy for wheelchair access. Suma mentions that the bath would not only make it easier for the elderly to cleanse themselves, but also serve as enjoyment for the kids. ‘A Universal design’- that’s his motto.
While the two women have permanently shifted into the homes, they are still working. The retirement home has a completely facilitated kitchen which they use to cook food for the other residents. Nobuko bakes the bread, while Sachiko cooks the food. They believe that they would be able to open it up to the public totally one day. But until then, they use the kitchen to make sure that the elderly are well fed.
The aging population is a major problem in Japan where most of the population is above the age of 50-60. According to a census report in 2018, almost 2 million people are over the age of 90, while close to 70000 people are nearing the age of 100. While they do have a problem on their hands, Japan knows how to care for their aging population. Their welfare system is based on a community model, and their amazing care model primarily focuses on removing the financial burden that families will have with a population that is aging at a tremendous rate.
The way the Japanese government cares for the elderly is completely practical. At the age of 65, any elderly person can appeal to the local government to take a test which will help evaluate what they need. Then, a supervisor would be assigned to them who would take them through the process whilst making sure that no extra burden is added to them. There are already several NGOs working in the major cities that take care of the elderly- and the community brotherhood that most societies share already helps them get on board with the welfare system.
For the two friends, the plan is simple- they want to exist independently in a period when they might need support. Issei’s design thus negates the possibility of things getting complicated- he built a hut that was in its purest state. Natural lighting fills the interior, and the high roof simply signifies the sky above.
In the end, Jikka is all about two friends wanting to care about society, and themselves while living in the lap of nature.