A Case Study: Aging, Gender, and Japanese Society
A Significant increase in the older population in Japan has occurred over the ast 30 years. whereas it took almost a century in North America and Europe. f the present trend continues in Japan. by 2025 people age 65 and over will ake up about 25 percent of the total population. and more than half of the lder population will be over 75 years of age. It is widely assumed that older eople are respected and revered in Japan; however. several recent studies uggest that sociocultural changes and population shifts may be bringing about gradual change in the social importance of the elderly in that nation. Until recently. most of the focus on the
aging population in Iapan’ has been on men and the workplace. Currently, feminist activists in that country are questioning why here has been so little attention given to the health and aging of women who are age 40 and above. When women have been iscussed in regard to the aging population, the subject has primarily been caregiving for elderly relatives. For example, the homebody” or “professional housewife” who cares not only for her husband and children but also for other relatives, particularly he ill and the aged, has been used as the “ideal” model of the Japanese woman, against whom all others are measured. However, ith over 60 percent of Japanese women in the labor force, greater pressure is being placed on Japanese policy makers to consider ow the government can playa larger role in the care of the aging population, rather than placing the burden completely on amilies, particularly women. As one analyst explained,
Because financially secure middle-class women are assumed to represent Japanese women as a whole, the situation of the majori y who must give up work to look after their relatives, often at great cost to the well-being of the entire family, is usually erased from national consciousness. Moreover, many live to be well over ninety years of age, and daughtersin- law in their eventies find themselves … caring for one or more incontinent, immobile, and sometimes senile relatives. Furthermore, because troke is the usual cause of disability among the elderly population in Japan, intensive nursing is often required, but men assist eT)’ rarely with this onerous duty. It is, therefore, the debate about home nursing and living together as a three-generation family that takes up most of the energy of activist women in Japan today …. (Lock, 1999: 61) Challenges such as these are resented by the aging of the population not only in Japan but also in the United States and other nations. Social policy issues bout older people reflect the intertwining nature of class, gender, and age as individuals and nations adapt to the “graying” of their opulations. Those persons who are growing older, whether in Japan or any other nation, seek to have both greater longevity and high quality of life during their later years.