There are plenty of retirement homes for “active seniors,” with activity centers, communal dining and maybe even a pool. Moving in to a place like this usually means you’re ready to have yourself some R&R—or you need help with daily living.
Two Japanese women in their 60s had something different in mind for their retirement home. Nestled on top of a flattened mountain in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, their set-up offers them the optimal environment for their plans: A place where they can care for older residents of the surrounding neighborhoods as they themselves live out the rest of their lives in what must be one of the world’s most beautiful architectural designs for aging, Jikka House.
Jikka, or 実家, literally means “real home” in Japanese; it’s used to refer to your parent’s home—the place you can always come to.
The women of Jikka, a retired social worker and a cook, worked with Tokyo architect Issei Suma to create their home, actually a collection of five accessible teepee-like structures with peaks that echo the mountains all around. At Jikka, the two women will cook and serve food in the cafe as well using the kitchen as a base for a “Meals on Wheels” type food delivery service. They’ll also host patients who need nursing care. The huts all open to serene landscape views and well as being interconnected with one another.
Soaring ceilings, lots of daylight and an aesthetic that’s simplicity defined create a healing environment for mind and body. Architect Suma described the design to the Huffington Post as “something as unembellished as a primitive hut and something as holy as a chapel.”
Each hut serves its own purpose. The largest, at the heart of the complex, contains a large kitchen and dining room.
Around this are guest rooms.
Even the swimming pool is wheelchair accessible.
Japan has the fastest-aging population in the world, and the country’s age boom is leading to a range of innovations. (See Senior Planet’s article on the innovations coming out of Japan’s age boom.)
What can we learn from Jikka about design for aging—and about our older years as a time to work with and for our local communities?
All photos: © takumi ota