A delegation including 15 Japanese people representing the Foundation for Senior Citizens’ Housing has spent the week in Chapel Hill to both educate and learn from retirement communities in the area.
“This is an organization for the people, agencies, and governments interested in improving housing for older adults in Japan,” said Yoko Crume, one of the organizers of the tour and an assistant professor at North Carolina A&T State University.
“They organize a tour every year to different countries to learn about best practices and share ideas.”
A group of student translators from UNC will join the delegation. The students will be interpreting during luncheon meetings at three area continuing care retirement communities, including Galloway Ridge at Fearrington Village, Carol Woods and The Cedars of Chapel Hill.
In the United States, people of the “baby boomer” era are reaching the age of retirement, and younger generations will face the challenge of figuring out how best to care for them. Japan, where more than 20 percent of the population is above the age of 65, is already facing this prob
Crume said it’s a big challenge in Japan to give adequate housing and health care to the aging population because the elderly make up the largest proportion of the population.
Hiroshi Takahashi, president of the Foundation for Senior Citizen’s Housing and a professor of social policy at the International University of Health and Welfare, said Japanese society is considerably different from American society.
He said Japanese people are more traditional in their belief that children should take care of their parents as they age, but that is slowly changing.
“Japan is aging more rapidly than the U.S.,” he said.
Takahashi said the U.S. population over 65 represents only 12 percent compared to Japan’s 20 percent.
“The government of Japan is more oriented in helping the elderly compared to the U.S.,” Takahashi said.
“In the U.S., the term personal responsibility is emphasized.”
He said Japan has a combination pension plan for seniors, along with health insurance and longterm care insurance. Japan is one of the few countries that provides longterm care insurance for the elderly.
Christopher Sato, a senior Asian studies major at UNC, is one of the student translators who assisted the delegation.
“It was quite difficult at first to translate back and forth from Japanese to English and English to Japanese, but I think it was quite fun to do that,” Sato said.
Pat Richardson, director of community relations at Galloway Ridge, said the organization was eager to host the delegation for a day and show them around the facilities.
“We hope to gain an opportunity to exchange knowledge and resources for housing for seniors,” Richardson said.
“We have an opportunity to learn from the Japanese culture and community on how they take care of their senior population. It will be a win-win opportunity for both parties.”
The delegation was in Chapel Hill until Wednesday and is now heading to Washington, D.C., where it will stay for three days before returning to Japan.