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The Secrets of "Sūpā Rōjin": Fundamentals of a Successful Aging Society in Japan

19.05.2011 | 18:30

Hiroshi Shibata, Professor, University of Human Arts and Sciences

Abriss

The term “successful aging” appeared for the first time 60 years ago and the concept of successful aging has been evolving ever since. One key component is high quality of life (QoL). The ultimate endpoint of QoL is considered to be subjective well-being as assessed by the degree of happiness or life satisfaction. It is of great interest that QoL in Western counties has never included productivity, i.e. the contribution by older people to society, including paid and unpaid labor as well as volunteer activities. Conceivably, this reflects the Western perception and appreciation of labor and work. The concept of productive aging has thus never been integrated into QoL in Western countries.

The situation is different in Japan, where the concept of Ikigai – “worth living” or “purposeful life” – is prevalent. Ikigai differs from QoL in that it includes a productivity aspect, since contributing to society, including by paid labor, is regarded as having a positive effect on the feeling of Ikigai. This presentation gives an overview and evaluation of the concepts of successful aging in Japan and the West and introduces a holistic version that comprises longevity, high QoL as well as productivity. This holistic concept of successful aging is very close to that of Ikigai and can be seen as the key to becoming a life-long active Sūpā Rōjin (Super Elder) and by consequence to “a successful aging society”.

Hiroshi Shibata, MD, PhD., is the founder and a professor emeritus of the Gerontology Program at Oberlin University Graduate School, where he was also Director of the Oberlin Human Development and Aging Research Institute. Currently, he is professor in the Graduate School at the University of Human Arts and Sciences. Dr. Shibata has professional experiences as a geriatric doctor with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital, and other geriatric institutions. Among others, he serves as President of the Japan Society for Applied Gerontology, Honorary Member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Member of the Policy Research Council on Aging Society of Prime Minister’s Office, and as board member of the Japan Gerontological Society, Japan Socio-Gerontological Society, and the International Longevity Center of Japan.

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