Taking out the trash is a daily chore that we don’t think out often. We pop our rubbish down the chute in our apartments, push out the wheelie bins once a week or just dump our bags of rubbish in the communal bins. For older adults who may be living alone and experience social isolation, taking out the rubbish may be a very challenging tasks. In a previous experience volunteering to provide help in cleaning up homes for older adults, some older adults may end up hording trash or unwanted items in their homes. Items range from take away boxes to bigger items such as a damaged mattress that had a hole in the middle. Some older adults may be caregiver to spouses or they may be living alone in isolation with chronic ailments such as osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, pulmonary issues etc. Environments they live in may be age-friendly or supportive in aiding them with make the task easier. Some smaller apartments may not have elevators, and older adults have to climb multiple flights of stairs. They may be living on a property that may not be levelled, or one with slopes and uneven paths.
Visiting some of the homes that were labelled “unsanitary” or “hoarders”, it is clear that these individuals really just required help in taking out the rubbish and they don’t want to have trash sitting around in the house but it was just too challenging to take the rubbish out. As rubbish accumulates in the home, older adults get stressed as well, recognising that they live in squalor but not knowing where to seek help. Some older adults have even mentioned that they were embarrassed to seek help and for people to witness them living in such conditions. In many countries, older adults have not know where to seek help or have the financial means to attain help at home with little tasks, however with a little help, they will be able to age in place positively in the community. One such couple I met in their 80s only had some primary school education, little health literacy, no family and they were both working as cleaners due to little financial support despite the fact that one of them was living with vascular dementia. The irony was that they had spent the day cleaning public places, by the time they were done they were physically too tired to clean their home resulting in self-neglect. We all can relate to feeling tired after a long day at work, and these older adults were on their feet for hours at a time in the day, and at 80 continuing to contribute to society, refusing to be a burden at the expense of their physical and mental health. A program such as this, having community organisations lend a hand can contribute greatly to the quality of life to the older adults living in the community and reducing waste management issues. Sometimes, it just needs a little step in the right direction and it can contribute greatly to the ability of older adults being able to age in place. Below is a news release of the guidebook and information related to the program. You can also find a web link to the guidebook below.
NEWS RELEASE 12th DEC 2019: NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
One of the issues related to waste management in aging society is helping elderly people who find it difficult to take out the trash. In the face of the aging of society and increasing numbers of nuclear (one- and two-generation) family households, more and more elderly people are in need of support.
In Japan, many local governments have introduced a program to support elderly people taking out their trash. Through our research, we have come to realize that helping the elderly to dispose of waste will not only ensure that waste is reliably collected from their households, but also improve their quality of life, help prevent isolation, foster trust in waste management businesses, and help promote stronger community ties.
This scientific research based guidebook is an English edited version of our Japanese guidebook to help local governments and community based organizations (CBOs) design and operate programs to support the elderly taking out their trash. Based on examples and data collected through reserch, it contains explanation on the background of this issue, methods to support the elderly, and process to design a program to provide support.