Yone Minagawa, who became the world’s oldest person earlier this year died in a nursing home in southwestern Japan. She was 114.
It is amazing to note that she outlived all her children except her youngest daughter, who I think will also live longer. Japan has one of the world’s longest average life spans – a factor often attributed to a healthy diet rich in rice and fish. But I’d have to add the efficient service of nursing homes to this long life expectancy.
The nursing home:
Growing up in a country with different family values, I would cringe at the thought of living and dying in a nursing home. In my vocabulary 20 years ago, that is harsh, disrespectful and the most unloving gesture children can do to their parents.
Year 1999 – M took me to his hometown and we visited his grandmother at the nursing home for the first time. He did not tell me anything about a relative living in a nursing home so I was shocked and ready to question his family values as soon as we parked the car. Why did he allow his grandma to live in an isolated place, away from her family?
When we were there and finally met her, I realized that I had been wrong.
She was happy there, with friends who share the same interests with her, she is around qualified nurses, with a resident doctor that will attend to her needs 24/7. The nursing home is temperature controlled, very warm and cozy at the peak of winter and very comfortable even during the hideously humid and hot Japan summers. Food is served in a balanced way, programs are held and the elders love it very much. They even have outings in spring.
Families put their elderly in nursing homes not because they don’t love them. It means they care for them, more than anything.
The temperature inside my in-law’s house in Japan is almost the same as outside during winter. I hate how I have to cover myself in more than 10 kilos of thick blanket. I hate how I breath white smoke inside the house. Only one part of the house is warmed, the living room while the rest is dead cold. Central heating or fire places are not popular in Japan.
If M’s grandma stayed in my in-law’s home, she would not be around now. M’s paternal grandmother stayed in the house and died 6 years ago of pneumonia. She was just 78.
Pristine and Kono ba-chan share the same birthday, 85 years apart
* In 2006, Japanese women set a new record for life expectancy at 85.81 years, while men live at the average of about 79 years. *
** Kono ba-chan’s mother lived until 95 **