Care home shortage grows acute in Tokyo

450 facilities have 40,000 dwellers; even more waiting


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and 23 ward offices are stepping up efforts to address an acute shortage of special nursing homes for the elderly.

The homes are for people 65 or older and recognized by municipal governments as needing daily care.

Tokyo has some 450 homes, which can accommodate a little more than 40,000 people. There were 43,060 senior citizens on waiting lists for admission in fiscal 2010, according to data from metro municipalities.

The shortage of special nursing homes is becoming more serious. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecasts that the number of people 75 or older in Tokyo will increase to 1.97 million in 2025 from 1.23 million in 2010.

In response, the metropolitan government has introduced a variety of support programs, and social welfare corporations that manage special homes. By the end of fiscal 2013 in March, it will have spent ¥11.8 billion to support the expansion or construction of facilities.

New home construction is subsidized by the government to the tune of ¥4.3 million per resident. Where the availability of land is limited, the subsidy can be raised by up to 50 percent.

The metropolitan government has another subsidy program for central Tokyo, where high land prices make it difficult to build special homes.

In addition, the Tokyo government allows homes to accommodate four people in a room, instead of the usual two under state regulations. It also leases out unused lots it owns to social welfare corporations at low rates.

Ward offices are also increasing the number of special nursing homes for the elderly.

Last June, for example, a social welfare corporation completed a home on a vacant lot leased free of charge from the Nerima Ward office, with subsidies provided jointly by the Tokyo and Nerima governments. The ward office used to have a cooking center for school meals on the lot. It plans to establish another home in Nerima by a similar method in fiscal 2017.

Elsewhere, the Suginami Ward office envisions building a home on a lot it owns in the town of Minami Izu in Shizuoka Prefecture, which has been vacant since the demolition of a resort facility for ward residents. Negotiations with the prefectural and town governments are already under way.

The envisaged project would not only help ease nursing home shortages in Tokyo but also serve to revitalize the local economy in Minami Izu by creating new jobs, officials said.

The key to success is whether adequate assistance can be provided for users so that they can smoothly adjust to life in an unfamiliar environment, experts said.