Faces of Aging: The Lived Experiences of the Elderly in Japan

By Yoshiko Matsumoto | Go to book overview

2 The New Elder Citizen Movement in Japan

Nobutaka Doba and Shigeaki Hinohara in association with Haruo Yanai, Keiichiro Saiki, Hirofumi Takagi, Mari Tsuruwaka, Masumi Hirano, and Hiroyoshi Matsubara

ALMOST EVERY COUNTRY WORLDWIDE must now contend with the reality of an aging population that is increasing more rapidly than was ever expected. In Japan, the population of elderly citizens aged 65 years or older has been increasing even as the total population has been in decline, and is expected to account for 27.8 percent of the total population by 2025. This is the fastest increase in the percentage of the aged observed anywhere in the world.

The rapidly increasing number of elderly throughout the world might represent a biological success for humanity if major health problems can be prevented until just prior to death and if elders’ health needs can be fulfilled to ensure total physical, mental, and social well-being. Throughout history, greater longevity has enabled the aged to educate younger generations and pass on their values. This role of the elderly has ensured human survival and progress and is reflected in the recommendations of the International Plan of Action on Ageing, proposed and published by the United Nations (United Nations 2003).

In this sense, all efforts to help the elderly must be directed toward satisfying their needs for personal fulfillment realized through the achievement of personal goals and aspirations; this represents the realization of the full potential of the elderly. It is important, therefore, for public policies and programs to be oriented toward promoting opportunities for self-expression that challenge the elderly and help them contribute positively to their families and communities. The principal ways in which the elderly might find personal satisfaction include: (1) continued participation in their immediate and extended family (see Traphagan, this volume, on possible problems with the family; Hamaguchi, this volume, on the positive effects of family participation), (2) voluntary service to

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