Full and bustling every day, seventy percent of users are men
A popular day service where users can play mah-jong
The services provided under long-term care insurance in Japan are divided into in-home services and institutional services, with daycare services playing a major role in the in-home service sector. As in many other countries, the majority of users are women, and many daycare facilities have aspects that are unsuitable for men.
The Shokei Fureai no ie [Shokei Community Center] in Tokyo's Suginami ward is an unusual day care facility in that men regularly comprise 70% of all users. The reason is clearly that the center provides activities that they enjoy.
Most daycare facilities are cater towomen
and offer activities like origami, juggling, and nursery-rhyme singing. The Shokei
facility allows users to choose from a varied program of activities including
mah-jong; strategic board games like go, shogi, and Othello; personal-computer
use; calligraphy; painting; gardening; and reading. (The library offers periodicals
published especially for men). The center currently serves approximately one
hundred users, is open from Monday to Saturday, has the capacity to provide for
30 users a day, and is almost always full. About 20 of the 30 users are men in
their 70s or 80s who require a relativelylow level of care.
On a typical day, all users of the Shokei facility participate in a morning program that begins with a health check followed by light exercise to loosen up the body, and "brain exercises" devised by the staff that are in the form of quizzes. After a home-cooked lunch, users can order connoisseur-quality coffee or tea. On the 5th, 15th and 25th of each month, wine is served.
In the afternoon the users are free to choose their activities. The most popular program is mah-jong. Mah-jong used to be one of the most popular pastimes in Japan, particularly among male students and office workers. Motivated by the desire to play the game, many users come to the center. Since mah-jong requires four players, neighborhood residents may stop by at the center to make up the numbers as "mah-jong volunteers." There are also women users who have been taught to play mah-jong by the center’s staff. Some of them have become avid players of the game. Many users have commented that their greatest pleasure is to come to play mah-jong at the center.
Mah-jong has been included in the program because former white-collar workers played a major role in formulating programs at this center. Several retirees who had become acquainted at a men's cooking class talked among themselves about what kinds of programs they would like to have if they were to use a day service. They then went on to develop a program that would satisfy men's interests.
Akira Inagaki, the center's director, commented that "Men participants will not be satisfied unless the program is an extension of the lifestyles they used to have in their employee days. We want this center to be one in which male retirees who have been hesitant about settling down in the community are happy to come and use it." The Shokei Center’s approach to program offering is innovative in Japan where most day services offer programs primarily geared to women.