Our country has entered an era in which more than one in every four people is elderly. The knowledge and experience they have built up through their long lives can be considered a treasure for our society. This treasure should be shared across the generations, by increasing as much as possible the occasions when we interact with elderly people.
According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and other sources, elderly people aged 65 or older account for 28.4% of the total population, a record high. The number of people aged 100 or older has for the first time topped the 70,000 mark. We realize anew that Japan is one of the world’s leading countries where many people live to an advanced age.
In contrast, the percentage of households composed of a three-generation family dropped from 15% in 1986 to as low as 5% in 2018. Also over those years, the number of households in which an elderly person lives alone increased from 1.28 million to 6.83 million, a more than fivefold increase.
Haven’t there become fewer and fewer occasions for people, chiefly the young and child-rearing generations, to have contact with elderly people?
Various efforts to set up occasions for people of other generations to interact with elderly people are underway.
The Kyoto prefectural government has been promoting since 2016 a project that asks elderly people to rent rooms in their homes at low rent to college students. Many elderly people are renting out rooms that were vacated when their children left home.
Elderly people can take care of students or give them advice, as they have left their parents’ home and feel uneasy. Meanwhile, some elderly people who rent out rooms have said that residing with a student has given them something to live for. They also seem to have a sense of security that they can count on those young people if their physical condition suddenly changes.
There also must be students who would learn new values and ways of thinking through interactions with elderly people, who would approach them from a different viewpoint than their parents.
Intergenerational interaction benefits both sides. There are also such projects as elderly people in local communities taking care of other people’s children during the day and listening to the concerns of parents. Advice from elderly people is expected to help people of different generations find solutions.
Recently the number of elderly people who use social media to communicate with relatives who live away from them, or with friends, has increased. Today is Respect for the Aged Day. How about enjoying a conversation in ways that we each like?
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI