Japan can teach the world a better way to age
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: August 28th, 2023
If you want a glimpse of the future, go to Japan. What lies ahead for many other countries, including the United States, is in rural areas and regional cities outside greater Tokyo: lots of people aging and dying, and relatively few giving birth and raising kids. In today’s Japan, the young and middle-aged are consumed by caring for the old, and small-town resources are overstretched. Japanese innovators are already demonstrating what’s possible — and, in many cases, not with high-tech fixes but by showcasing design thinking, dignity and respect. Instead, they would be invited to share their wisdom and skills to help them stay active, sharp and socially engaged. Old people at the center cook for one another and teach young people how to grow vegetables and make art. The city [of Toyama] repurposed old train and tram lines into a sleek light-rail system, with platforms placed at the level of the train cars so that people would not need to climb or descend stairs. Public transit ridership among people in their 60s and 70s has since more than tripled, and this has helped seniors maintain active and social lifestyles. Other social entrepreneurs in Japan have focused on food — for instance, bringing children and the elderly together in cafeterias that serve traditional dishes. One Tokyo pop-up eatery, dubbed the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, has employed people with dementia as its waitstaff. [Japanese innovators have] yielded ideas that prioritize helping old people flourish, not just managing their illnesses, disabilities and deaths.
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