Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The challenges of a fast aging population
ISHIDA Michiyo / Senior Correspondent for CNA, Singapore

September 3, 2019
One two three four five… arms up, arms down, legs up, legs down.” It’s a routine exercise with my wheelchair bound elderly mother every night. She had broken her thigh bone twice. I wasn't a rehab expert. But with limited rehabilitation support in her neighborhood, I had to make sure she retained flexibility in her joints and did not lose the little strength she had left in her legs and arms. If only she was given a few more weeks at the specialized rehabilitation hospital for post surgery recovery, she would be able to walk again. But rehab hospitals clearly set a 90 days cap for those recovering from a broken thigh.

If the Japanese government is serious about promoting elderly health, it should give those who wish to extend their in-patient rehabilitation period the freedom to choose further training. That will raise the chance for the patients to become strong enough that they will not have to depend on social welfare. But the reality today is there are a growing number of Japanese senior citizens in need of nursing care once they are injured or fall ill. One in four are over the age of 65 and the proportion of elderly population continues to rise while the birth rate continues to be one of the lowest in the world.

This is the aging Japan, I have been witnessing with my work related and private visits to elderly homes.

The existing nursing care system in Japan is not simple.
First, the elderly person has to receive a rating of the level of nursing care need from local authorities. Then it's necessary to sign a contract with a care manager whose role is to book helpers, day care centers, short- term stay, suggest rental of nursing care goods including wheelchairs. Next, the client and a family member have to sign contracts with each service provider. Contracts are renewed regularly. This has to be done on weekdays during office hours. To receive morning care, the care taker has to be living alone.

I used to envy my colleagues in Singapore and Malaysia who had live-in maids from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar to look after aging parents and grandparents without having to go through these nitty-gritties.

I did urge a Japanese cabinet minister back in 2015 to relax the law to hire helpers and nurses from the Philippine, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Regulations are slowly being relaxed and I do see more foreign staff working at elderly homes and hospitals, but more can be done.

Another matter that needs to find a solution is the rising burden of cost on senior citizens to seek help.

With life expectancy becoming longer and longer, the Financial Services Agency released a report that an elderly couple must have savings of at least 20 million yen to last 30 years. That shocked the Japanese public. In response to the negative public reaction, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso refused to accept that report. Did the agency miscalculate? Or was the estimate a reality that could put Japanese leaders in trouble?

Surely Japan has experts with ideas and wisdom to better manage the aging population. The world is watching as many other countries are also leading a similar path.

Michiyo Ishida is Senior Correspondent for CNA, a regional TV news channel
owned by Singapore's national broadcaster Mediacorp.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

石田 三千代 / シンガポールCNA上級特派員

2019年 9月 3日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The challenges of a fast aging population