Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan: Land of the Rising Retirees Societal Attitudes and Business Strategies Begin to Adjust to a More Active Senior Population

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan: Land of the Rising Retirees Societal Attitudes and Business Strategies Begin to Adjust to a More Active Senior Population

Article excerpt

RETIREMENT in Japan, the world's fastest aging industrialized nation, has been seen as a time when people stay indoors, trim bonsai, or watch baseball on television. But, nowadays, many older people continue to work, spend money, and play golf.

The tendency to emphasize how to take care of the old "has been changing into how to have a healthy and active life for the 20 years or more after retirement," says Masaaki Shiraishi, executive director of the Japan Well-Aging Association (JWA), a private group of older citizens who seek a better life in the days of longevity.

According to health and welfare ministry figures announced in August, the Japanese have the world's longest average life spans - 75.91 years for men and 81.77 for women. The number of people aged 65 and over is expected to increase from 14.82 million in 1990 to 31.88 million in 2020 - from one out of eight today to about one out of four.

During the 1980s, almost all that government and business circles could talk about was how to take care of senior citizens and what to do about senility, says JWA president Sumio Yoshida.

"Everything in life has a plus and a minus aspect," says the 79-year-old Yoshida. "But if only the minus is stressed, then people will feel gloomy."

Japanese companies and marketing researchers are slowly understanding this sentiment and what must be done to cultivate older customers.

The government has promoted more vigorous lifestyles since the health and welfare ministry started to be concerned about expanding costs of government medical care, which rose 8.6 percent during the past fiscal year, eating up about 1.8 percent of the gross national product.

When Japan first became aware of its demographic change, many companies reacted simplistically by providing home-care helpers, wheelchair rentals, and reclining beds, often with sale tags that read "for old people."

So dramatic - and some say traumatic - is the shift to an older society that more than 150 private companies got together in 1987 and, in an opportunistic move, created the Elderly Service Providers' Association. This "new" market for seniors is expected to reach $700 billion in the year 2000, according to a 1988 calculation by Asahi Life Insurance Company.

Despite such forecasts, few businesses actually have begun to participate in such a market, according to Isao Okamoto, director of management strategy at the Mitsubishi Research Institute. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.