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What Japan's Dementia Communities Can Teach Us About Memory Care in the U.S.

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerDecember 31, 2018

The dementia epidemic is global and even countries like Japan, with high life-expectancy rates, are facing a caregiving and healthcare crisis as they deal with the impact of the disease.

Learn about Japan’s dementia communities and how their response to their own epidemic can help other countries create more encouraging and empowering spaces for people living with the disease.

Japan’s Innovative Dementia Communities and Designs

Japan has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world at 84-years-old, but the country is not immune from the dementia epidemic. Nearly 20% of Japanese seniors are predicted to have dementia by 2025. A whopping 4.6 million people are currently suffering from the disease and that number is expected to rise to 7.3 million people by 2025.

In a culture that prioritizes senior care, Japan faces spiraling health and welfare costs and a shortage of professional caregivers. In order to cut down on these costs, the country is turning towards a community care plan that moves away from institutional care and one that is more communal in nature.

It’s this exact thinking that led Tokyo-based architect, Junya Ishigami, to develop a unique space for seniors with dementia. Ishigami developed a space for seniors with dementia at the request of a client who instructed that each person’s space be visually distinct from others and that the residence not feel like a hospital, but instead a real home, with a distinct entrance and even a central “street.”

Ishigami chose to source existing wood-frame houses from across the country to repurpose them. He planned on removing the interior of the house and then using the frames and roofs to create a flexible interior so that residents could go in and out of their “house” independently and safely.

He says of dementia communities, “I can’t imagine a dementia patient being cozy and having a happy life in a hospital-like setting.”

Though Ishigami’s plans never came to fruition, the design itself encompasses a unique approach to dementia care that stems from a culture that respects aging parents and senior loved ones and sees caregiving as a communal responsibility.

How do you think the United States can learn from how other cultures treat their senior loved ones with dementia? Would communal dementia communities and caregiving environments work in the U.S.? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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