Japan has a rapidly aging society, which has put pressure on the government to come up with an aged care policy to ensure the quality of life for its senior citizens and offset the economic costs simultaneously. The Japanese model of elderly care is rooted in the community and employs the Japanese filial values as a core driver. Today, it is not the families you care for the elderly individually, but society as a whole sees it as their social responsibility. Since 30 percent of the Japanese people are considered senior citizens, elderly care is an issue that concerns everyone.
How does the system of aged care work?
A person over the age of 65 who requires aged care advice applies to their local government. Once their request is approved, a complex test is done to analyze their particular needs. A care manager is assigned the case who determines how much budget will be allocated to it and what services are to be provided. These aged care advice services may include help with bathing or providing food or provision of disability equipment such as wheelchairs, nurses, doctors, ambulances, etc. The care management organizations are often small and local. They can be public, not-for-profit, and private sectors. They often rely on the assistance of volunteers for their regular functioning. This public-private collaboration and volunteer manpower significantly alleviate the financial burden of the government. Aged care advice is thus readily available and easily accessible.
Senior homes also exist where old people can mingle with others, eat, play, and even bathe. However, these are limited in numbers and the emphasis is on in-home care. A nurse and two assistant make their rounds in the homes of elderly people, who are often living alone, to just check up on them or to provide them food or to help them bathe. A nutritionist is assigned to each case to ensure that the best diet based on the health needs of the person is delivered. The aged care sector requires massive manpower to undertake this work. More than 11,000 people are employed in the sector while hundreds work as volunteers who provide care at people’s homes and in senior centers.
Life with dignity
The motto of the sector is to care with dignity and ethics. Many families find that they are unable to care for their old, frail loved ones. With a vast number of dementia patients among the seniors, the task of eldercare becomes even harder for the families. With a consultation with the local council and the care managers, they develop a personalized plan for them. It might involve being shifted to a senior home or staying at their family home or finding a new residence for themselves or a combination of the choices. However, the top priority remains that the seniors have a chance at a dignified life. Such aged care advice is rare to find in the rest of the world.
The system is partially funded by co-payments. 10 to 30 percent of the pensions of the seniors are used to pay for their care, while the rest is paid through public funds gathered by national or municipal taxes. Since up to 30 percent of the Japanese population is considered senior citizens, the care system requires exorbitant taxes from the people. In some places, up to a quarter of the local budget of a municipality may be spent on aged care. Donors and non-governmental organizations also bolster the strength of the care system and are a vital part of it.
While the Japanese model for aged care is remarkable for its community engagement approach, it is important to note that such aged care advice would not be replicable in a different culture. The Japanese draw on the Confucian principle of respect for the elders to convince people to dedicate their time, labor, and tax money to ensure a dignified life for the seniors. However, in other cultures, it might not be a convincing argument and the individual-centered societies of the West might not be able to sustain such a system. However, the WHO has endorsed that the Japanese model is the aspiration the rest must work towards, in their own way.