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The Graying Of Japan Essay

The elderly Japanese population currently outnumbers younger generations and children for the first time in recent history. The number of Japanese over the age of 65 exceeded those under the age of 15 by 50,000, therefore reflecting a low birthrate and increased longevity. In hard numbers, there are rouhgly19 million Japanese over 65, while individuals under the age of 15, the total hovers around 19 million. Combined, the two groups make up 30% percent of the Japanese population, respectively.

Japan’s rapidly aging population has become a critical policy issue, especially as the increasing costs of pensions and elected officials debate medical care. Japanese society is potentially faced with the world’s longest periods of retirement due the highest ranking in the world of life expectancy however; the possibility of long periods of disability is also associated with this achievement. The strong family support of the elderly in Japanese society traditionally recognized as a central component to a 1,000-year-old system.

However, the recent decline in co-residence with children is one indication that the way that support traditionally provided may be changing in every sense. Coupled with the concern of elder abuse, these issues are of particular concern to the government, which wants to avoid any greater responsibility for the elderly than is necessary given the dramatic population aging yet to come. Overtly encouraged by the government, employers are providing more employment opportunities for the senior population while concurrently attempting to rise the eligibility age for receipt of public pensions.

Clearly, there is resistance on the part of employers, however, because wages and retirement allowances in Japan are directly related to length of employment. However, the central focus remains on abuse of older people by family members or others known to them, either in their homes or in residential or other institutional settings. Elder Abuse Private and respectively traditional, Japan has had a family-based care-giving system for centuries, “This feudal family structure came into existence during the Edo era among the upper strata of Japanese society, that is, aristocrats, the sho¬gunate (lords) and samurai warriors.

Under the ie system, the continua¬ tion of the family line from one generation to another depended upon the existence of male offspring in the family. ” (Kumagai, 1996 p 15. ) Now, twenty-five percent of Japan’s population will be 65 years of age and older by the end of this century. While this stark numeric value is a clear indication of the inevitable, this ever growing population has caused debate over obvious financial issues as mentioned earlier, but one critical topic that has received little attention; the increasing problem of elderly abuse.

The working definition of Elderly abuse is described as the physical or psychological mistreatment of a senior. The abuse is not limited to physical attacks, it can be in the form taking financial advantage or neglecting the care of a senior. Worldwide, families and politicians address this critical issue. Knowing no bounds of culture or country, the result of this focus is the depiction of a problem that is both appalling and distressing. The majority of this abuse is within the internal generational family setting and from all indication; the condition has increased in recent years.

As recent as last spring, Japan published its premiere report on elderly abuse. While citing 1,991 cases, a small number compared too many other countries, researchers and academicians believe the actual totals are more incline toward 10,000 cases. In any case, the professionals agree that the numbers are steadily increasing. Abuse of the elderly is clearly an international problem. There are many countries reporting cases numbering up to 10% of the population impact over the age of 65 years as victims of abuse.

In the west, the percentage ranges between 4 to 10% and in Britain; it is estimated to be around 10%. The Japanese Society for Study of Elder Abuse initiates nationwide investigations into the incidence and occurrence of elder abuse. However, in most cases, these studies are woefully inadequate and underfunded. The research is often based and relies on cases reported by local community care centers and or volunteered information from health and social service professionals in the public and private sector.

As in, most case, in the cities and suburban areas of Japan, care giving is shifting from that family model to a more formal, community-based care-giving system and this is seen as major cultural shift in Japanese society. Understanding what contributes to abuse and the introduction and acceptance of “non-family” members now being involved in the care of elders, the incidence of abuse and neglect is becoming more apparent. As an example, sexual abuse in the West is much more taboo than reporting psychological or physical abuse. Hopefully, such information will aid in the response and, hopefully prevent the occurrence of abuse.

The variations in different types of elder abuse are possibly to due to cultural differences in the discretion of reporting the number and certain kinds of abuses. “Efforts to substantiate the existence of familial abuse of the elderly are, without question, elusive in the present, and unfathomable in the past. The extent of previous levels of conflict, even if researchers could agree on a single definition of the phenomenon, is unknown. ” (Pillemer, 1986. p3. ) Examining one aspect of this issue closely is the concern of poor relationship.

This problem is especially true among daughters-in-law related to different lifestyles between the generations. The traditional mother-in-law relationship of dominance by has changed in the minds of today’s adult women in Japan. In years past, this relationship and conflict is more acute. This attitude may not be surprising, given the pre-World War II inheritance law where the inheritance went to the oldest son but now perhaps a perception of lack of appreciation by the victim for the care provided, physical fatigue from care giving is no longer given a sense of entitlement to the financial resources of the older person.

In Japan, the case of financial abuse upon the elderly is more commonly “accepted” to be reported in comparison to physical abuse. Domestic and Institutionalized Abuse Research in Japan indicates that a stressful care-giving environment and employee relationships can lead to mistreatment and abuse of frail elders. Fundamentally, the caregiver is not a direct cause of elder abuse and neglect. However, the discussion and training of crisis intervention strategies implemented by social workers at Home Care Support Centers are significant.

“Historically, Japanese sociology, and for that matter many of the other Japanese social sciences, though about as old as their western counterparts, focused most of their attention on descriptive and philosophical approaches to the study of Japanese society. ” (Sasaki, 2000 p 1. ) Conducted by Japanese researchers, the demographic background of elders and their families in an agricultural area in northeastern Japan reviewed findings of elder abuse studies illustrates intervention strategies employed by social workers who work at Home Care Support Centers.

With no formal notification system for elder abuse in Japan, his importance of ongoing monitoring, arrangements for formal services, and institutionalization are critical discussions within the cultural issues unique to family care-giving situations. It is important to note on an aggregate scale, the abuse of older people by family members dates back to ancient times. It remained a private matter, for family consumption only until the introduction of initiatives to address abuse and domestic violence in the last turn of the 20th century.

Not unlike any other form of family violence, abuse of the elderly is no longer viewed as a social welfare issue simply stemming from the problem of ageing. It is recognized as a public health and criminal justice concern. The modern day view and analysis of abuse of the elderly is largely dictated by the Japanese public health and criminal justice system. Therefore methodology and approached to the issues is centralized. A little more than 30 years ago, the share of senior Japanese citizens living in institutions (particularly in-developed countries) had reached an insignificant percentage of the population.

Since that time, there has been a shift in emphasis towards care in the community and the use of less restrictive residential settings. In comparison, social, economic, and cultural changes taking place in some of the developing societies will leave families less able to care for their frail relatives and thus portend an increasing demand for institutional care. In central Asia, the expectation of institutional care for older people is becoming the norm and rapidly overtaken family care for the elderly.

In practice, though, it is often difficult to say whether the reasons for abuse or neglect found in an institutional setting have been caused by individual acts or through institutional failings. Individual acts of abuse or neglect in institutional settings and institutionalized abuse, where the prevailing regime of the institution itself is abusive or negligent, is usually condoned by the administration. Anecdotal evidence suggests that staff through a system of unquestioning regimentation often encourages institutional abuse.

In the name of discipline or imposed protective care and exploitation of the dependence of the persons under care, evidence indicates these cases aggravated by a lack of professionally trained management There is a growing interest in providing services for victims of elder abuse along the lines of those developed for battered and abused women and children. Emergency shelters and support groups specifically aimed at older abused people are relatively new. They provide an environment where victims of abuse can share experiences, develop the psychological strength to cope with their fears, self-doubt, stress, and anxiety,

The Society for the Study of Elder Abuse (SSEA) in Japan, an independent group consisting largely of social workers and academics, carried out a national survey of community care centers. Their study confirmed the existence of elder abuse in Japan. Based on the results, SSEA decided that a telephone counseling service, similar to that run in the United Kingdom by Action on Elder Abuse, was the best way to confront the problem of elder abuse. Elder domestic violence cuts across all lines of societies but it is a preventable, major public health problem.

Elder abuse and neglect are important social problems in Japan and while research is attempting to clarify the nature, extent, and causes of the problem; there remains limited research focusing on family responses to elder abuse. Reference(s) Fumie Kumagai, Donna J. Keyser, 1996. p 15. Unmasking Japan Today: The Impact of Traditional Values on Modern Japanese Society. Publisher: Praeger. Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Karl A. Pillemer, Rosalie S. Wolf 1986. p3. Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family. Publisher: Auburn House Publishing. Place of Publication: Dover, MA.


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