Lesson from Japan: Aging Populations

Go Lean Commentary

The Bible says “to honor your father and mother so that your days may be long” – Exodus 20:12. This is presented in one of the 10 Commandments as a law and a promise. This is best explained at Ephesians 6: 1-3 (New International Version or NIV):

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH …

So caring for aging parents brings honor to them and to us.  Some places do a better job of this than others. One such example is Japan.

There are around 55,000 centenarians in Japan

This purpose of this commentary is to highlight the currency of this serious issue. The book Go Lean … Caribbean calls for the elevation of the economic, security and governing engines in the Caribbean region. The end-result is not just on societal engines, but also on people; in this case, the elderly. This Go Lean book is not a public health guide for gerontology, to enjoy optimum treatment towards our seniors, but rather a roadmap for impacting change in our community. This news article on the experiences in Japan is presented here; also consider a related story in the AUDIO podcast below:

Title: Japan is home to the world’s oldest population — and the world’s oldest man
By: Daniel Gross, Audrey Adam

Koide receives the Guinness World Records certificate as he is formally recognized as the world's oldest man, at a nursing home in NagoyaThe world’s oldest man lives in the country with the world’s oldest population. Yasutaro Koide is 112 years old and was just recognized by Guiness World Records as oldest man on Earth.

Japan’s remarkable longevity is cause for celebration. But it’s also creating challenges for a government dealing with a population that keeps getting older.

According to Naoko Muramatsu, a scientist who studies Japan’s aging population at the University of Illinois, Chicago, one-quarter of the country’s residents are already above 65.

There are many costs associated with an aging population, starting with the familiar challenges of social security and health care. But there’s also the cost of an odd Japanese tradition: giving a silver sake dish to centenarians, or people who reach 100 years of age.

Thanks to a new decision by the Japanese government, that practice — which is currently government-funded — may end soon. They say the total cost of the dishes, which are about $60 each, is simply too high. There are around 55,000 centenarians in Japan, according to 2013 statistics.

Muramatsu says there are several reasons that help explain the age of Japan’s population. “Life expectancy in Japan is the highest in the world,” she points out. “People try to eat well, try to do exercise well.”

Another reason is that ever since a brief postwar baby boom, Japan’s birth rate has remained extremely low. A aging baby from that baby boom will turn 65 soon, and many haven’t had very many children, or any at all — leaving more seniors living alone or in nursing homes.

Japan has started to respond to the challenge. In 2000, Japan started long-term care insurance. “You start paying into the system at the age of 40,” says Muramatsu. “And at the age of 65, you’re entitled to receive long-term care, homecare or nursing home care.”

Muramatsu has a personal connection to the study of aging. She remembers that during her childhood, her mother looked after both the older and younger generations. But the tradition of caregiving has been transformed by Japan’s new demographics.

When Muramatsu’s father died a few years ago, she saw first-hand some of the challenges of growing old in Japan. “In Japan, cremation is the custom,” she explains. But cremation has become difficult in cities whose populations spiked in the postwar years. Many elderly people haven’t left urban areas, which means the death rate has risen. “I couldn’t reserve a cremation facility for my father, in the city that we live in.”

Those sorts of challenges may take decades to overcome. But with them come the fact that in Japan, women can expect to live almost 90 years. And Men live well past 80, on average.

And if they’re like Yasutaro Koide, they might even live to 112.

Source: “The World” by Public Radio International; posted August 21, 2015; retrieved 08-23-2015 from: http://kosu.org/post/japan-home-worlds-oldest-population-and-worlds-oldest-man#stream/0


AUDIO – “The Challenges Posed by an Aging Global Population” – http://n.pr/1IqdCHV

Uploaded on June 22, 2015 – One-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older in 15 years. NPR’s Ina Jaffe talks with NPR’s Scott Simon about the aging of the population worldwide and the challenges it presents.

The book and previous blog/commentaries posit that socio- economic factors must be accounted for in the roadmap to optimize and improve this society. In fact, the book lists 144 missions for the imminent Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU); one of them is an advocacy for improved Elder-Care. This is identified on Page 225 under the title:

10 Ways to Improve Elder-Care … in the Caribbean Region

The Go Lean book posits that there is a deficiency in the regional institutions for caring, supporting and planning for the elderly. How do we go about improving on the Social Contract for the senior citizens in our community? What happens if/when we are successful for elevating life for our seniors?

The Go Lean book answers the “how”; it serves as a roadmap for introducing and implementing the CU. In its scope, it features the curative measures for the exact societal deficiencies, highlighted by the CU’s prime directives, as follows:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines and mitigate challenges/threats to ensure public safety for the region’s stakeholders, including the elderly.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance, including a separation-of-powers with member-states, to support these economic/security engines.

Where as the book addresses the “how”, this commentary features the “when” for succeeding in the improvement of the lives and longevity of the elderly population of the Caribbean. When people live longer, there is a dramatic effect on the socio-economics of a community. This is the lesson from Japan.
CU Blog - Lesson from Japan - Aging Populations - Photo 2

In Japan, the improvements in the societal engines (economics, security and governance) have resulted in improved livelihood and longevity for their people. This has resulted in demographic shifts: there are more senior citizens, more centenarians, compared to the rest of the population.

The problem:

Seniors do not work; nor contribute to the public “pools”; they only draw from it. Too many “takers”, compared to the “givers” is bad economics. So while we love our elderly, we must also prepare for the reality of their longevity.

From the Caribbean perspective there is another reality: societal abandonment of the younger generations – this Go Lean movement has fully defined the excessive abandonment rates in the 70% to 90% range for the college-educated populations in the region. This has the same negative effects on the public “pools”: the numbers of the “givers” shrink, while the proportion of the “takers” remains static, or worse, increase.

It is what it is!

This is a matter of heavy-lifting. Serious solutions must be sought to mitigate the risks of communities getting this challenge wrong. In a previous commentary, the socio-economic issues associated with the rising number of seniors in society were fully explored; the dread of elderly suicides was detailed.

The Go Lean roadmap does not ignore the needs of the elderly, nor the actuarial realities being contended in the region. Rather, the roadmap calls for mitigations to dissuade further emigration and also the inducements for the Caribbean Diaspora to return – back to the homeland – and bring their hard-earned entitlements with them. The CU organization structure features the establishment of regional sentinels and advocacy groups to intervene on behalf of local seniors to optimize their benefits from any foreign programs they may have previously participated in. These SME’s will work for the CU’s Special Liaison Group at the CU’s Headquarters or in Trade Mission Offices.

CU Blog - Lesson from Japan - Aging Populations - Photo 3This Win-Win scenario is a prominent feature in the US, with lawyers advocating for Social Security benefits for their clients, for a fee; see this sample Advertisement from a Detroit-area law firm. For stakeholders of the CU, there is no need to pay this fee – normally extracted from future benefits – as the CU Subject Matter Experts (SME) will advocate for the Aging Diaspora returning to the Caribbean. (The Go Lean roadmap calls for funding law degrees for students but binding their services for a few years to impact their communities, as in working for this advocacy).

This is a classic example of the field of socio-economics. The goal of any socio-economic study is generally to bring about socio-economic development, usually by improvements in metrics such as GDP, life expectancy, literacy, levels of employment, etc.  In many cases, socio-economists focus on the social impact of some sort of economic change. But this is about more than just numbers, this is about people.

The Go Lean … Caribbean roadmap constitutes a change for the region, a plan to consolidate 30 member-states into a Trade Federation with the tools/techniques to bring immediate change to the region to benefit many stakeholders. The book details the community ethos that must be adopted plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to prepare for an aging society … in the Caribbean; see a sample list here:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Repatriating Caribbean Diaspora & Entitlements Page 47
Strategy – Non-Government Organizations Page 48
Strategy – Agents of Change – Aging Diaspora Page 57
Tactical – Confederating a Permanent Union Page 63
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Growing the Economy – Lessons from Japan Page 69
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Department of State – Special Liaison Groups Page 80
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Department of   Health Page 86
Implementation – Assemble all Member-States Page 96
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Trade Mission Office Objectives Page 117
Implementation – Reasons to Repatriate Page 118
Planning – Lessons Learned from 2008 Page 136
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 133
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Healthcare Page 156
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Entitlements Page 158
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education – Brain Drain Case Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Student Loans – Forgive-able Page 160
Advocacy – Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Impact the Diaspora Page 217
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Retirement Page 221
Advocacy – Ways to Help the Middle Class Page 223
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Elder-Care Page 225
Appendix – Disease Management – Healthways Model Page 300

This Go Lean book asserts that there is a direct correlation of population growth/contraction with the economy. This viewpoint has been previously detailed in Go Lean blog/commentaries, as sampled here:

Bad Model: Pressed by Debt Crisis, Doctors Leave Greece in Droves
Demographic Trend: Immigrants account for 1 in 11 Blacks in USA
Businesses Try to Stave-off Brain Drain as Boomers Retire
Retirement Planning – Getting Rich Slowly … in the Caribbean
Book Review: ‘Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right’
Having Less Babies is Bad for the Economy
10 Things We Don’t Want from the US: # 8 Senior Abandonment

As this commentary opened with a Biblical quotation, it is even more fitting to conclude with one, a Proverb, as follows:

The glory of young men is their strength, [but] gray hair [is] the splendor of the old. – Proverbs 20:29 NIV.

Without a doubt, there is value to keeping senior citizens around in our communities; their “grey hair” – poetic for wisdom – is greatly valued … and needed. As a society, we have made too many mistakes, that with some far-sighted wisdom and best-practice adherence, we could have done better and been better.

We must turn-around, reboot and prepare!

We must listen to the wisdom of the experienced/wise ones. They can help us to make our homelands better places to live, work, and play – for all: young and old.  🙂

Download the book Go Lean…Caribbean now!

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