Supporting the Elderly in Tohoku Six Years After 3/11

Tohoku: A Recovering Region

Today marks the sixth year since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami devastated an entire coastline. Since that time Peace Winds America has provided more than three million dollars of relief and recovery assistance, particularly in the fishing communities. We are still working to support a community center in Minamisanriku.

The Elderly Still Need Support

Yet for those who don’t have a place of work or whose homes were destroyed, many challenges remain. Peace Winds has found the elderly are particularly vulnerable. This finding was borne out by a cooperative study between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues in Japan. The researchers found the number of elderly with symptoms of dementia tripled two-and-a-half years after the tsunami. Those in temporary housing had the steepest decline.

“It appears that relocation to a temporary shelter after a disaster may have the unintended effect of separating people not just from their homes but from their neighbors—and both may speed up cognitive decline among vulnerable people,” said author Hiroyuki Hikichi.

Peace Winds supports Viva Minamisanriku, a community center where the elderly come together to interact and grow social ties. By providing activities, training, and a chance to build community, this support is slowing the rate of decline among temporary housing residents, who are having difficulties recovering and finding hope for the future.

Pottery is a popular activity at the community center

READ MORE > about Peace Winds’ work in Japan.