To Be Supported, or Not to Be: Images of Older People in Policy and the Reality in Local Communities in Japan

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Social innovation is not only about tangible new products, services, policies, and laws, but also about changes in societal perceptions, values, and norms. In Japan, current policies for older people, including Long-Term Care Insurance, tend to focus on medical and long-term care and other forms of “support” for older adults such as a pension. Naturally, these policies depict older adults as the “beneficiaries,” or the ones in need of support. However, when we look back at pre-modern Japan, it was not always like that. Although older adults did depend on support from family and community members, they also played an active role as a laborer and caretaker as well as providing useful knowledge for their family and community. Moreover, currently, in different areas suffering from a sharp decline in population, such as Okayama prefecture in western Japan, older people are actually playing the role of the supporter for groups of people who are in need, not only the aged population but also other demographics including young children and parents. Based on this historic “tradition” and the present reality, this paper argues that we need to reestablish the image of (at least some) older people as capable of taking a more active and responsible role in society, and position them as such in the new “welfare society” systems in order to replace the conventional “welfare state” model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalFrontiers in Sociology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 12 2019


  • local community
  • older people
  • social innovation
  • social service
  • welfare society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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