Elderly 'earn' rehab credits for treats at daycare centre

Unlike other centres, where staff serve the elderly, at Mizuumi, the elderly do most of the work themselves. At lunch, for instance, they collect their utensils, line up to choose their food and push a cart to take it to their tables. After eating, t
Unlike other centres, where staff serve the elderly, at Mizuumi, the elderly do most of the work themselves. At lunch, for instance, they collect their utensils, line up to choose their food and push a cart to take it to their tables. After eating, they return their washed cutlery.ST PHOTO: SEOW BEI YI, JANICE TAI

A new type of daycare centre where elderly visitors must "earn" the privilege to use certain services will be set up here by 2018.

Senior citizens will be given a form of internal currency when they successfully complete rehabilitation exercises which can be used to pay for treats like massages or a session in a therapy pool.

This is to motivate them to do rehabilitative exercises by rewarding them according to their effort.

Modelled on a pioneering centre in Japan, the Lien Foundation, Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation and Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home plan to set up at least one such centre here for over 100 seniors.

Details of its location and budget are still being finalised.

The Dream of Mizuumi Centre in Tokyo was started by an occupational therapist in 2011. It has since gained international attention, such as from the United Nations which included it in a database of projects for sustainable, ageing societies. There are four such centres in Japan with franchises elsewhere.

The centre was bustling with elderly users when The Straits Times visited it last month. Near its entrance is a whiteboard where the seniors plan their schedules.

Unlike most daycare centres where seniors follow a structured timetable, those at Mizuumi get to pick from a range of 150 activities - such as woodwork, pottery and calligraphy - and decide when they want to do them.

"It's exciting and people look forward to the day," said Mr Kuniaki Yamamoto, 66, who has been going to the centre for three years.

Daycare centres are where the elderly go for rehabilitation and social activities on a regular basis, though they go home at night. Singapore's Ministry of Health intends to offer 6,200 daycare places by 2020, up from 2,100 in 2011.

Unlike other centres, where staff serve the elderly, clients of Mizuumi do most of the work themselves.

During lunchtime, for instance, they collect their personal box of utensils, line up in a row to choose the food they want and push a cart to take the food to their tables. After eating, they return their washed cutlery to the shelves.

Although some senior citizens use wheelchairs and walking aids, the centre is deliberately not barrier-free. In the middle of it stands a steep, two-storey-high staircase.

Instead of railings or grab bars, there are ropes for support, which trains upper and lower body coordination. "Walking along the street is like this. There is no support and obstacles are everywhere so we need to get used to them," said Mr Yamamoto.

Mr Masaaki Soma, 72, chose to join the centre because there are a lot of activities for men. Usually, daycare centres are more popular with women.

"There are bowling, shooting and fishing games and men come here because there is purpose behind everything we do here," said the former deliveryman, who plays the games in his wheelchair.

"I left my previous daycare centre because I was using matchsticks to build something, but the staff thought it was dangerous and stopped me. Here, we have the freedom to do what we want."

Ms Misa Maeda said: "After playing various games, we earn 'money'."

The 91-year-old, who enjoys relaxing on the centre's water bed, added: "Besides getting to exercise, deciding how to use the currency exercises our minds and keeps us alert."

Lien Foundation chief executive Lee Poh Wah said: "Instead of the traditional... model of care where the elderly often pass time in vacuous activities, (the new) centre is conceived to put the elderly squarely in charge of their own programmes, empowering them with autonomy, choices, a sense of purpose and achievement."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Elderly 'earn' rehab credits for treats at daycare centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe