How Japan adapts to aging


Japan, more than any other country in the world, is facing the aging of its population. A quarter of it is over 65, and Japan is the country with the most centenarians: 65 000 for 127 million inhabitants (against nearly 21 000 in France for 66.9 million inhabitants) .

Japan's approach to the challenges — and opportunities — raised by the rapid aging of the population makes the country a real laboratory for the rest of the world. At the same time because the family solidarities remain very strong, but also because, at the same time, the whole country reacts to adapt society to this new situation.

In 2000, the Japanese government launched a long-term care insurance program. "Like in France, it is an insurance system, but is also based on taxes, including VAT," says Fumi Irie, from the Japanese Ministry of Health. "This old age insurance disrupts traditional society, explains Fumi Iri. Before, it was the families who cared for dependent elderly people, especially women. Now they can work."

This system combines health care, long-term care, home care and outreach services at the community level, to allow seniors to continue living in familiar places, even if 'they require an advanced level of care or are suffering from Alzheimer's disease - 2.8 million people have dementia in Japan and by 2025 this number will increase to 4.7 million.

The country is also gradually taking the measure of the social value of the elderly. "We are still categorizing by age and the elderly are systematically regarded as people to help. But this no longer corresponds to reality," says Fumi Irie. In Japan, 29.3% of men aged 65 and over continue to work, compared to 3.2% in France. "For most of the Japanese people, especially men, work is very important: they see it as a way to preserve the link with society."

We met initiatives to enhance the social role of older adults — such as the Days BLG center, where "old" people with cognitive impairment can continue to work and feel useful to their community. We also visited places where old and young people build together a place of life where they can be more self-confident — such as the intergenerational Aoi Care initiative — or programs that mobilize families and health professionals to caring for elderly people with loss of autonomy — like the methodology Humanitude, implanted by the French Yves Ginest, which is a huge success in Japan.

We let you discover them here.


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A street in Kyoto


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Masue Katayama, a 78-year-old changemaker

We met Masue Katayama, a 78-year-old social entrepreneur. For more than 30 years, she has transformed abandoned buildings into affordable retirement homes for elderly Japanese. She employs foreign carergivers, traditionally discriminated against in the society.

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Days BLG! - Small jobs for elders with dementia

They wash cars, post the local newspaper, know the best hits of Japanese karaoke ... We followed Japanese people with dementia in their small jobs at the Days BLG day care center

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The Frenchman who teaches tenderness to the Japanese

The French Yves Gineste teaches the Japanese how to give tenderness to the elderly : how to touch each other, how to look at each other in the eyes ... We wanted to understand why his method, Humanitude, is such a success in Japan.

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VR Dementia - In alzheimer's head

Thanks to virtual reality, Keio University students in Fujisawa are learning how to feel the feelings of older people with cognitive impairment.

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AOI Care, a place to be yourself

At AOI Care establishment founded by Tadasuke Kato in Fujisawa, the focus is on identifying and realizing each other's forgotten potential. Older people with neurodegenerative diseases such as adolescents who drop out of school have a place to be themselves.



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