How is Like Being Elderly in Japan?



Japan has the longest life expectancies in the world, with 10.5 million octogenarians and 34.6 million over 65 (27.3% of the entire population).

The data of the World Bank classify the country in 1st place followed by Italy, with a share of over 65 equal to 22.4% of the population. According to the forecasts of the Ministry of Health of the Japanese government, the percentage of over 65 will reach 40% in 2060.

Japan is also the country where there is a high record of people with over one hundred years. It is here that we find the oldest man in the world, Masako Nonaka: 112 years old, in good health, a lover of sweets, sumo meetings and first place in the Guinness of the oldest men in the world.

However, for the Land of the Rising Sun, the phenomenon of aging also brings out many problems. In fact, Japan, in addition to having the highest rate of elderly people in the world, is simultaneously experiencing a dramatic drop in births. The number of children under 15 does not reach 15.6 million, just over a quarter of the entire population. Beyond this, there is another fact that is of concern, relating to the economic conditions of the elderly, according to which 19.4% of people over sixty live in poverty, with pensions reduced to a minimum (due to of a pension system that dates back over 50 years and that does not take into account demographic changes), still needing services like

The aging population is actually putting the country to the test, both financially and socially. The young people who enter the world of work are less and less, the weight of the pension debt is difficult to sustain, moreover Japan does not have important migration flows, like the European countries, so that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to facilitate the procedures entry into the country for foreign workers, on which, evidently, he thinks he can count on supporting both the increase in the birth rate and the social assistance assistance system that an aging population needs.

In fact, according to the Guardian, by 2025 in Japan there will be as many as 370 thousand people who will look after the elderly.


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The low birth rate along with the high rate of population aging has increased the condition of loneliness in which many elderly people live in Japan. From 1985 to 2015, the number of elderly people living alone has increased by 600%, so much so that the solitary death of the elderly, the kodokushi, has become a real social phenomenon. Thousands of elderly people let themselves die alone each year and the bodies are found only after months of death.

The precarious situation of the elderly Japanese population has generated a paradoxical social phenomenon, that of being arrested in order to live in prison. 20% of prisoners in Japanese prisons are elderly, mostly accused of petty theft, most are women, and half of the elderly arrested for shoplifting live alone. A study by the Japanese government has shown that about 15% of the elderly living alone report having only one conversation a week.

According to the opinion of many of these elderly people living alone or with a small family unit, with difficulties in dealing with basic necessities and disoriented in the face of illness, people live better in prison than free men and women. In prison, in fact, there is no problem of not being able to pay the rent of the house; 3 meals a day are guaranteed and, above all, you meet people to talk to and share those precarious situations that are difficult to bear alone. In a nutshell, you feel like you’re part of a community and you meet a new family.

An interesting alternative solution to the inconveniences that can be encountered in the age of old age is the experience of co-housing: a solution that for some years now has made cohabitation not only the prerogative of university students outside home, but also for the elderly. Cohabitation helps to face not only the economic problems, but also the solitude.

They help each other in the management of the house, sharing the expenses and keeping each other company. They also share meal together, they divide the duties to buy groceris, they can even learn to buy food, herbs or spieces online! In addition to co-housing, there is also the solution of the social condominium: entire buildings with apartments shared by two or more self-sufficient people, where the elderly can share common areas and receive medical assistance and support in everyday life problems. Certainly living together is good, but free from prison bars.

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