TOKYO: When her stay at the glamorous Grancreer residence turned into a nightmare of disrupted sleep and difficulties with the staff, retired harpist Yumi Makino opted out, and after a two-year legal battle got her deposit money back in a rare victory over a big real estate company.
Makino’s experience reflects the challenges faced by many older Japanese in finding suitable care and accommodations in “super-aging” Japan. Many assisted-living facilities demand hefty up-front payments on top of the usual rent and other fees – payments that are customary in Japan although they have been banned in other wealthy nations.
A resident who gets fed up usually has no option but to just forfeit the money. But Makino, a 66-year-old widow, fought on and eventually got all ¥12mil (RM439,100) of her money back.
There are no official data, but the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, a government-backed agency, reports growing problems with residents of assisted living facilities who decide to leave but have a hard time getting those big one-time payments back.
“The reasons for such payments have always been unclear,” said Kosei Ogawa, Makino’s lawyer. “It serves as an expression of gratitude.”
Makino said she was unhappy with how staff at Grancreer treated her. But the strongest factor behind her win was a malfunctioning emergency alarm that kept going off at night, disturbing her rest.
The management of Grancreer refused to fix it despite repeated requests, dismissing her as senile, she said.
“Why do we have to be treated as inferior when we are paying all this money?” said Makino, who spent much of her career on the move.
“The appearance may be that of a gorgeous hotel, but the staff’s behaviour was low grade.” — AP
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