Senior Care in Japan: The Past, Present, and Future

September 29 2022

Historically, Japan has been known for the widespread respect it gives senior members of society. Family members and people in the local community have a powerful sense of obligation to make sure they're cared for. Family members being involved and responsible for seniors was even formally embodied in the Japanese style welfare state.

In Japan, the demographic structure of society is changing and the population is aging progressively.

In Japan, the demographic structure of society is changing and the population is aging progressively.

In Japan, the demographic structure of society is changing, as it is all over the world, and the population is aging progressively. According to the latest information, Japan has the oldest population in the world. Providing care for this elderly population is seen as a social concern, not just a family one. In countries such as the US, there are programs in place to help seniors afford care. For example, ALTCS eligibility may apply.

In 2000, Japan introduced Long Term Care Insurance or LTCI. This insurance aims to provide cover for anyone aged 65 and over, depending on their needs.

How Does LTCI Work?

When a Japanese person reaches the age of 65, they have to apply to their local government. Their needs are assessed by way of a complex test. Following the test, a care manager offers advice on how the senior's needs can be met. It is based on a budget they've been allocated and knowledge of the services available in the area.

These services are predominantly community-based care. The local service providers are in the private, not-for-profit, and public sectors. They tend to be small organizations with their roots in the local community.

There are residential homes, but this option is severely limited. Instead, the emphasis is on community care, not just for financial reasons, but for the well-being of the elderly community.

Funding for this insurance comes from premiums that are paid by all citizens, once they reach the age of 40 and above. Eligibility is universal and premiums are compulsory. This means there is less stigma involved and the services are readily accessible.

When the system was first introduced, eligibility criteria were quite liberal. However, the system was meant to be a flexible one, and regular revisions have taken place as the number of elderly people increased in the country. There was some concern about this aspect of the system, but it is now accepted as part of the process.

Another problem with this program is the cost. The Japanese government has predicted that by 2040, it will be spending one-fourth of its GDP on social welfare. That makes the annual cost around 190 trillion yen. Long-term health insurance and lower health care costs are not the answer. So what could be done in the future?

Raising Retirement and Pension Eligibility Age

This is the most obvious solution and would be the quickest to implement. Such a move would also allow an increase in tax revenue for the government. Elderly Japanese would also enjoy increased financial stability because they'd be earning and saving money for a longer period.

Under consideration is a rise in the current retirement age from 65 to 70, possibly even 75.

Relaxing Immigration Restrictions

Another idea is to relax immigration restrictions, although it is not the most popular one. Japan is a very homogenous society with only 2% of the population made up of foreigners. Suggestions have been made for separate communities where foreigners would have to live. While the Prime Minister offered his support for an easing of restrictions, he also said that foreigners would need to return home after three to five years.

So, while this might encourage more foreign caregivers to live in Japan, it is by no means a long-term solution. There is also the problem of the language barrier and the fact that foreign caretakers find it very difficult to pass national exams.

Communal Elderly Care Solutions

Another interesting solution is to support the growing number of households in which elderly people take care of themselves. It is an excellent approach for Japanese seniors who don't have a family to rely on.

Flatshares can help fight loneliness. In addition, they make up for a lack of young family members to provide support.

Final Thoughts

As more and more people grow old in Japan, it presents significant social and economic challenges. While the culture of care is culturally embedded, interventions are required from the government to support the aging population.

Related content