This year marks the 50th anniversary of Japan’s widely beloved Respect for the Aged Day. In Japanese culture, the third Monday of every September is reserved for paying respect to senior citizens, recognizing their contributions to society, and celebrating their long lives. A quick glance at these celebrations may be enough to help you understand why Japan is so widely regarded for its senior care, but what can American culture learn from the Japanese example?
Celebrating Respect for the Aged Day
The Japanese celebrate Respect for the Aged Day with music, gift-giving, dancing, and by spending time with their elders. Many seniors agree that one of the best parts of growing old is being able to spend more time with your family, and holidays like this provide another welcome excuse to do so. Unfortunately, respect for the Aged Day isn’t observed in America, and most people probably couldn’t even tell you the month when Grandparents Day takes place. And that’s likely because of how bleak American attitudes about age can be.
Attitudes About Age
Part of the reason Japanese attitudes towards the elderly are so positive is because of the influence of Eastern ideologies like Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Not only do these ideologies prescribe reverence for seniors, they suggest a level of filial piety that almost demands holding deep respect for elders and their extensive life experiences.
Japanese attitudes towards the elderly are also partially a result of the fact that their nation already has the oldest population on Earth. With a median age of 41, and an exceedingly high life expectancy of about 83, Japanese society has already adapted to serve senior citizens. The proportion of seniors who live alone in Japan has been on the rise in recent years, but seniors living alone are still nearly half as common as they are in America.
Combating Adult Failure to Thrive
While living independently has some advantages, communal living can help contribute to a person’s economic, social, and emotional wellbeing. Struggling to do simple tasks or feeling isolated can be a recipe for misery, which is why getting companion care can be a critical step for seniors who suffer from or may be at risk for adult failure to thrive (AFTT).
AFTT is diagnosed when someone’s health enters decline without an immediate physical explanation. Symptoms may include weight loss, dehydration, inactivity, and decreased appetite. For many seniors who suffer from AFTT, companion care may be able to help them re-engage with life. In the absence of a fully-supportive environment like many Japanese seniors enjoy, companion care may make all the difference in the world to the comfort of your loved ones.
The Near Future
Unfortunately, not everyone lives in an age-supportive culture like Japan. However, it may not be long before America will need to learn to quickly adapt to nurturing the growth of aging adults. Like Japan, America is a rapidly aging society. Over the next three decades, nearly one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. If there’s one thing we can learn from the Japanese, it’s that the changes of aging are both biological and cultural. It’s only by addressing that fact that we might finally close the gap in happiness between Japanese and American seniors.