When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Japan, multi-generational community development platform Ibasho made room for a food catering business, with the elders taking the helm. Ibasho founder Emi Kiyota advocates letting elders do what they want to do – build what they want, take the risks they feel prepared to take, and ask for help when they need it. “We have to trust elders to decide who takes risks. The liability issues are with elders, and they’ve lived for a long time. So stepping up on the stool like that – if the stool isn’t stable, the people around her won’t let her do that, but at the same time they don’t want her to feel like she’s restricted.”
Do you feel heard?
A member of the Ibasho community prepares a meal at the community’s catering business.
Emi is currently involved in setting up Ibasho as part of Singapore’s upcoming Health District @ Queenstown. Her goal is to develop a wellness platform for elders to own, maintain, and modify as their needs change, and through this process, stay longer in the workforce and delay institutionalisation. “
Being able to help others give motivation for elders to wake up with purpose in the morning. Being a part of a community and being responsible for an operation gives them higher sense of belonging to their surroundings and sense of agency. Older persons’ skills and experiences are valuable assets – traditional knowledge, life experiences, spiritual growth gained through long life – but modern society has not put high value on these assets, instead prioritising financial gain, productivity, and efficiency.”
Now at the deliberation phase of this five-year project, she has regular informal meet-ups to encourage social connection and get people acquainted with the “democratic decision making process”, “We talk about very practical things like, What if someone's going to bring a karaoke machine and they want to do karaoke at three in the afternoon?”
Emi believes that social interaction forms the basis of our identity, that our social roles begin with making eye contact or greeting each other. These exchanges grow into friendships and then an informal support network where we can ask for help and offer others help.