A Japanese social experiment is redesigning community services and infrastructure to support older seniors to remain healthy and active and also working if they choose, a conference on ageing-related research has heard.
The social experiment, conducted by the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Tokyo, aims to provide a community for people of all ages to live well in.
It involves redesigning the soft and hard infrastructure, which respectively refers to the services and physical elements required for a quality life.
Gerontologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, Hiroko Akiyama said the goal was to redesign communities to meet the needs of a highly aged society.
“We want to build communities where people could live for hundreds of years staying healthy, active, connected, and live with a sense of security, Professor Akiyama told the Australian Association of Gerontology annual conference on Wednesday.
“This is not retirement community. It is ordinary community for people of all ages,” said Professor Akiyama, who is the AAG 2021 Gary Andrews International Fellow.
The project includes creating age-friendly workplaces and flexible employment models for people who wish to continue working after the age of 65.
A national survey conducted by the Japanese Cabinet Office found that 70 per cent of people aged 60 and over want to work until they are 70 and almost 40 per cent want to work as long as they are able, Professor Akiyama said.
There have been nine workplaces created in areas such as agriculture, food services, education and personal care.
The wage is dependent on the role but the minimum wage is guaranteed for all jobs, Professor Akiyama said.
Transportation and technology are a “big issue” for older people who want to remain active and safe in the community, she said.
“In collaboration with several companies such as Toyota, we are working on alternative means of transportation in the community,” Professor Akiyama said.
She said they have applied existing technology in the community to help older people remain connected and safe, and pursued technological innovations to test.
That includes trialling technology developed by Hokkaido University and the Mitsubishi Electric Company to minimise stress on the lower back for older workers in farming roles and developing an artificial intelligence job matching platform, Professor Akiyama said.
An evaluation on the impact of working at an older age has found positive effects, she said.
“People wish to work even after age 65 is good for [their] health,” Professor Akiyama said. “Expansion of job opportunities for seniors is essential to ensure sustainability with a society to maintain and enhance the labour force, social security, finance and economic development.”
She said this was important because Japan was expected to lose more than 8 million workers over the next decade.
Based on its success, policy recommendations were made to the National Government and legislation was passed to institutionalise the program, she said.
“Now it is spreading throughout the country,” Professor Akiyama said. “Senior labour force participation is essential for sustainability of the social security system and the economy as well. We need to reform the pension system to reduce various barriers at workplaces and enhance senior’s employability.”
The 2021 AAG Conference takes place as a virtual event from 9 – 12 November.
Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of the AAG.