- Apr 5 2017
We found this same focus on the future at Kotoen, a unique center in Tokyo where children and seniors spend the day together. The interaction between old and young creates what can only be called an explosion of joy.
It started in 1962 as a home for seniors who had no relatives to look after them. Later, the center added a day care for children aged 6 or younger.
About 100 seniors and 100 children now share their days together. In the morning, they gather to exercise. The children’s energy is contagious as the seniors clap along or even stand to move along with the music. During the day, the senior residents sometimes visit the children, play with them or give a hand to the staff. With help from a staff member, children also go to visit the residents.
You can feel a positive energy when you walk in the building. Interaction with the young children adds a sense of meaning for the seniors. At the same time, the children sense the gentleness of the residents and learn from their spirit of compassion and consideration.
This does not mean that the Kotoen community shies away from the realities of ageing and death. Even though the children develop strong bonds during their stay, the death of a senior friend does not have to be a tragedy for a child. Rather, the child learns what death and mourning means. For everyone at Kotoen, life and the daily interactions are enriching and meaningful experiences.
It's been said that old age is a kind of second childhood. In Japan, many people adopt this philosophy. On their 60th birthday, they celebrate an Asian rite called “Kanreki.” They dress in red, the color of a Japanese toddler's clothes, and celebrate achievements. In addition, past troubles are forgotten as the celebrated individual enters a new stage of life with all the joy and possibilities of a newborn.
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