In the past three years, architect Sadakazu Furuya has drawn up 15 designs for small-scale nursing homes, although he has received orders for none of them.Undeterred, he has devoted all his spare time to coming up with designs for what he calls group homes for the elderly. “I believe group homes are the answer to senior citizens living happier lives in the future,” he says.Saitama Prefecture-based Furuya, 49, has been designing nursing facilities that can become home to more than 50 elderly residents who need care. “In doing these designs and visiting the homes, I felt a new type of smaller home is desperately needed to keep the elderly from becoming totally dependent on others and thus losing their ability to care for themselves,” Furuya says.The group home concept is simple, he says. He pictures a small complex “where six to 10 elderly people can live together helping each other like a family” — in contrast to established notions of nursing homes in Japan. In countries such as Norway and Denmark, group homes have gained a reputation for having positive effects on care for the elderly, especially with people who are senile.By 2020, the proportion of Japanese people aged 65 or older is expected to jump from 12 percent to 26 percent. The Health and Welfare Ministry estimates that by 2025, the number of senior citizens needing care will increase to 5.2 million from the current 2 million, while the number of bedridden people will jump to 2.3 million from the current 900,000. With the number of the nation’s elderly increasing at an unprecedented pace, the government plans to increase the capacity of nursing homes to 290,000 nationwide by 2000 from the current 230,000. But the increased capacity is still considered insufficient.Government guidelines require public nursing homes that accommodate senior citizens that need the help of others to have more than 50 beds, in principle. High urban land prices have tended to force such facilities to be constructed in remote areas, Furuya says. In addition, the number of elderly people who are able to care for themselves is on the increase, Furuya says. “I want to provide senior citizens with facilities where they can live actively while still being in touch with their community.”

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