I have recently returned from a fantastic trip to Asia- which had been on my bucket list. The trip started in Japan and it was a perfect launching point to see how aging matters and learn about some of the differences and similarities in our cultures.
People live longer in Japan and in fact have the longest-living population in the world with 43% of the population predicted to be 60 or older by 2050. The world’s oldest man died at age 113 on Jan 21, 2019- he was Japanese and was still living in his own home. They are already dealing with many of the problems we are now facing – a rapidly aging and childless society and not having enough caregivers generally. Japan started to address some of these problems in 1994, with an initiative to provide better childcare. More and more, both parents are working and even with increased access to daycare support, the birthrate continues to decline. Similar to North America, younger people are not getting married or having children.
One difference I did note on my sojourn was, what appeared to me, to be a greater level of respect for the older generation, this was evident in Bali and in Taiwan as well. I was in Taiwan there during the Chinese Lunar New Year, (which I learnt is a very family oriented time) and as such, the restaurants, parks, subways, were filled with families; many of whom were pushing an older parent in a wheelchair.
Japan has been focusing on encouraging healthy aging and believe that the “the key is health management and diagnostic technologies that are indispensable for heading off diseases before they strike” One such initiative is further development of a new toilet that can measure urine sugar, blood pressure, body fat and body weight. Below is a photo of a standard Japanese toilet, which includes a heated seat, cleansers for the front and back, and a dryer; some offer music as well. So clever and useful! Note that is also in braille.
My appreciation for their respect toward family and services available for their older citizens has continued to grow. I will be writing and introducing a number of caregiving robots that I also had the pleasure of meeting.
 2017 UN study on World Population Aging, excerpt from ‘We are Tomodachi, Winter 2019
 We are Tomodachi, The government of Japan, Winter 2019