Introducing Korea’s Best Practices of Local Governments for Older Persons

작성자 admin 시간 2022-12-28 17:20:47
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 The 100-Year-Old Yard:

An Initiative by Seoul Municipality to Ward Off Dementia


Dementia is characterized by a decline in cognitive and higher mental functions such as intelligence, learning, and language because of damage to or destruction of the normally mature brain by external factors such as acquired trauma or disease. It is a neurological disease, and is the fourth major cause of death after heart disease, cancer, and stroke (Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). According to data released by the Central Dementia Center in 2022, the estimated number of dementia patients, out of a total of 8,577,830 persons aged 65 and over in 2021, is about 886, 000, meaning around 10 percent of older persons. The annual cost of looking after persons with dementia is about 19 trillion KRW (20 million KRW per person). Dementia requires caregivers in the home, or imposes the financial burden of placing the older person in a care facility, making it difficult not only for patients but also for their families, by comparison with other diseases.


Dementia is currently far from completely reversible, and as the symptoms worsen, the treatment become less effective, and the burden on the family increases. With the emergence of the concept of community integrated care (community care), there is a growing demand for dementia patients not to be placed in care facilities but for them to stay under integrated care in their homes and communities. Despite the increasing awareness of dementia, and the development of various forms of social infrastructure to care for patients with dementia, dementia is still a life-changing burden for individual patients and their households. For this reason, the government and local governments are carrying out various projects to prevent dementia, alongside creating infrastructure to care for people with dementia. This report introduces Seoul's project known as “the 100-year-old yard"*, whose aim is to maintain the cognitive health of older persons and create age-friendly communities. 


In December 2022, Seoul installed its first 100-year-old yard at the Songpa Senior Welfare Center, to help older persons maintain and develop physical, emotional and social health in their daily lives. Seoul has been promoting cognitive health design projects since 2014, based on research that dementia can come on quickly if any one of physical, emotional, or social stimuli is lacking. The outcome of this project is the 100-year-old yard, whose main goal is to place exercise equipment and relevant programs in spaces that are easily accessible to older persons, such as outside welfare centers.




The 100-year-old yard installed outdoors at the Songpa Senior Welfare Center is 200 square meters in size. It incorporates three areas and forms of activity: physical strengthening, emotional healing, and social exchange. The physical strengthening course consists of four types of exercise equipment: shoulder muscle strengthening, finger exercises, right posture exercises, and gymnastics to strengthen muscles. The exercise equipment carries notices in large letters indicating exercise methods, appropriate duration, and frequency, making the equipment easy for older people to use. Steady and repeated exercise is intended to assist and motivate older persons: muscle development helps them in their daily lives with tasks such as climbing stairs, pressing cell phone buttons, and housework.


The emotional healing area incorporates a flowerbed that is linked to a gardening program operated by a welfare center, a gallery where the artworks of older persons can be displayed, 24-season memory guide (based on Korea’s lunar calendar) and a cognitive clock are provided. The aim is both to increase self-esteem among older people, and expand opportunities for interaction with neighbors.


The area for social exchange includes stages and chairs for performances by older persons, and boards painted on the floor so that people can play traditional games such as yutnori and sabangchigi. Following the Songpa Senior Welfare Center, Seoul plans to build the 100-year-old yard in four additional places (Geumcheon Senior Welfare Center, Nowon Senior Welfare Center, Mapo Senior Club, and Seocho Jamwon Neighborhood Park) by March 2023. In addition, the plan is to continuously expand the dementia prevention projects developed in the context of the Older Persons’ Playground initiative. *
*The first playground for older persons was set up in 2021 in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, to make physical exercise more convenient for older persons. It includes 15 kinds of exercise equipment, waterfalls, benches, and large exercise spaces.


The treatment of persons with dementia is closely related to the issue of the human rights of older people. From a negative social view of patients with dementia to the possible disregarding of personal privacy that occurs while providing dementia care, it raises human rights issues. As the area of care expands, awareness of dementia is also increasing, but it still creates a big burden on patients themselves and their families. The government and local governments are trying out different projects in the hope of preventing dementia, or at least delaying its onset. The public health center continues to campaign the ways to prevent dementia prevention, and programs for sustaining the cognitive functions of older persons are attracting a very positive response. The government is trying to establish dementia safety centers nationwide, prevent dementia, and create a dementia-friendly environment.  The 100-year-old yard is a key initiative in this regard.