Japanese nursing home in Kitakyushu recruits children to cheer up elderly residents

The generous compensation package from the Moyai Seiyukai House in Kitakyushu City includes flexible hours, baby food and diapers, as well as cups of tea in their own cafe for accompanying mothers.

In turn, recruits, who must be 3 years old or younger, are asked to “come visit whenever they want” and “walk as much as they want”.

The recruitment campaign is the brainchild of Gondo Kimie, the head of an institution that has about 120 elderly residents.

She came up with the idea after noticing how the residents perked up when her little grandson started visiting the house about two years ago. Other staff members also sometimes brought their children into the facility, and “when older residents saw them, they smiled,” Gondo said. “The atmosphere was good.”

So the house began distributing flyers around the neighborhood and posting open calls to the kids on social media.

The program started with just one child in 2021 and has now grown to 32 little “employees”, mostly from local families, Gondo said.

And enjoys wild success with the townspeople. Many are smiling just watching babies from afar, while some in wheelchairs are pushing themselves to interact with children, she added.

“Even in people who usually don’t talk much, smile little or move little, as soon as they see babies, their facial expressions become brighter,” Gondo said.

Not only does the visits help combat public perceptions of nursing homes as depressing and lonely places, she said, but they also have a healing effect by providing residents with a much-needed source of social interaction.

Gondo added that children who frequent the house can form close relationships with residents.

“I hope that when (children) start going to elementary school or junior high school, they will continue to visit this center as their home at any time,” she said.

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