Foreign Affairs / Nathan Davies

Lessons From Japan

The state of care for elderly citizens in the UK has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Not only have the ‘elderly care scare’ stories appeared with alarming regularity in the media, it ranked a paltry 17th out of 20 European countries surveyed in proportion of GDP spent on elderly care. Retirement is supposedly a time of well-deserved relaxation, but in the UK those approaching 70 may be feeling fear rather than tranquillity.
A very different story is unfolding in Japan. Boasting the highest proportion of elderly citizens in the world, Japan is at the forefront of such care. There is no doubt the she sheer number of elderly citizens has been the driving force behind Japanese innovation in the field; it would be terrifically short-sighted to ignore their increasing demographic problem.

The cultural respect for the older generation plays a key role int he standard of care Japan provides for their elders. The younger generation have a heavy social obligation to look after the parents- to not do so would be a serious stain on one’s social reputation. In the UK, grandparents can often be seen as a burden, as someone the state and the family must carry the weight of.

Japanese society however reveres the elderly and in general, a deferential attitude is adopted towards them. In business circles, the senior person is usually the eldest and it is considered bad form to disagree with them in public as they have had more years to build up wisdom.

It is not just the care system that requires reform within the UK- the entire cultural attitude towards elderly people must be transformed. There are more reasons other than altruism driving this necessity- the younger amongst us will (hopefully) have to face the pressures of old age at some point!

Nathan Davies      19.03.2012

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