Maintaining the Health of Elderly Evacuees

Lack of Activities at Evacuation Centers has been a Serious Problem

Prolonged evacuee life has given the elderly little opportunity to exercise, which can have a harmful effect on their health. AAR JAPAN has begun sending a team of experts in occupational therapy and physiotherapy to visit evacuation centers on the Oshika Peninsula, part of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, to provide rehabilitation and advice on how to make the living environment better suited to long-term physical fitness. On July 9th, a team of six, including nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, visited two evacuation centers and four homes on the Oshika Peninsula.

Exercises and Living Environments Suited to Each Person

A woman in her 80s has been staying at an evacuation center with her husband. She suffers from osteoarthritis, and as her knees hurt bitterly when she moves, she hasn’t been able to move around. Mr. Kiyoshi ISHII, an occupational therapist, gave her a careful massage to mitigate the pain in her knees. The woman slept on a bed at home, but uses a futon at the evacuation center, which causes further strain on her knees when getting up. We advised her to use a shower chair found in the evacuation center as an assistive device to allow her to stand up and sit down more easily.

Japanese-style squat toilets are also difficult for the elderly to use. At this evacuation center, only the men’s lavatory has a western-style toilet, so the woman has had no choice but to use the men’s lavatory. We recommended that the evacuation center bring in western-style sitting toilets that can be placed over the Japanese-style toilets.

With pain in both knees, this woman has had difficulty getting up from her futon and going to the lavatory. Mr. ISHII (right) gives her a massage.

At another evacuation center, a woman with intellectual disabilities in her 70s walks with the heels of her shoes folded over because they have become too small for her swollen feet. Although she can walk, with her bent back and weakened muscles she is at risk of falling at every step. We taught her a rehabilitation exercise using a walking frame found in the evacuation center, and recommended shoes and a walking frame suitable to her. We advised her to walk with them in the evacuation center regularly.

Occutational therapists Mr. ISHII (left) and Mr. KONO (right) guide a woman through rehabilitation exercises with a walking frame.

The elderly need daily exercise to prevent their bodies from weakening as a result of prolonged evacuee life. It is essential not only to offer temporary solutions such as massages and strength training, but also to teach routines they can undertake in their daily lives, and to offer suggestions for improving their regular living environments.

AAR JAPAN will continue our support for survivors as their environments change, whether in their homes, in evacuation centers, or in temporary housing.

                                              Naoko MIYAMOTO, AAR JAPAN Morioka office
After graduation from university, she worked as a caseworker in a rehabilitation facility for people with intellectual disabilities. She then worked in a school for children with disabilities in Fiji as a Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. After returning to Japan, she studied international health and public hygiene at graduate school before joining AAR JAPAN. She worked in AAR’s Dushanbe office in Tajikistan from June 2010 to June 2011. She has been engaged in emergency relief operations in the Great East Japan Earthquake since June 2011. (Born in Nagasaki Prefecture) (Profile at time of posting)