Kimitsu Red Cross Volunteers Provide a “Second Home” for the Elderly
Ms. Yuriko Kubo is the chairwoman of the Kimitsu Red Cross Volunteers in Chiba Prefecture. Over 13 years, the group has been managing a day care center open twice a month for elderly, called "Sato-no-house" – which means "a house like home" in Japanese. At Sato-no-house, the participants eat lunch, prepared by the volunteers and participate in activities such as reciting Chinese poems, singing songs, doing paper folding "Origami" with the volunteers.
The Red Cross Volunteers started Sato-no-house in 2001, aiming to help break down a sense of growing isolation among the region’s elderly. Ms. Kubo said: "We started providing these activities for those who are healthy enough that they don’t go to government-owned day-care center, but who don’t have a place to go out. We wanted to create a place in which those elderly people felt comfortable."
Those who come to take part in the sessions are enthusiastic. 93-year-old Ms.Tsune Mizoguchi says:‘Here is like my second home. It’s like reliving my childhood when I take part in all the activities. I really enjoy it. ’
Another participant, Ms. Kinu Watanabe, 96 years old, remembers the first day she joined which was 13 years ago. "I was told to bring lipstick next time. So I brought my makeup and they helped me put makeup on. . I hadn’t made up my face for such a long time, so I was surprised but it was really fun."
Ms. Shizue Hasegawa, 89 years old, said the charm of Sato-no-house was, "the people are very welcoming – I’m sure it’s because they are all volunteers."’
One of the key figures behind the long-running project is Ms.July Matsumoto. "We are all doing what we can, when we can," she says modestly.
The interaction with the elderly residents is also a two-way street. Ms. Yoko Kamataki , 61 years old, who has been involved as a volunteer for 10 years in Sato-no-house said: "there are many tips for farming which I learned from the elderly and I enjoy it, since I get to encounter people through the circle of volunteer work". Ms. Takeko Watanabe, 70 years old said: "I feel sad whenever I don’t see a participant who was there the last time. Maybe the person is sick or has gone into a care home …I feel I should value the present with the participants every time."