A Case Study: Aging, Gender, and Japanese Society

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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.