RENKEI Interdisciplinary Workshop in Osaka: Living with an Ageing Society

Living with an Ageing Society: Interdisciplinary workshop in Osaka

How can we make a rapidly ageing society a better place in which to live by working together across generations?

Challenge 

In both the UK and Japan, the average age is increasing, and the proportion of seniors is rising. In both countries, the number of people over 65 years of age exceeds those under 16, and the number of people over 85 is set to at least double over the next 12 years. Japan now has a low birth rate, resulting in a large number of elderly people needing to be supported by a small economically active population. The birth rate in the UK has been rising in recent years, but due to the combination of this growth and of increased longevity, by 2050 50% of its population will be economically non-active – either too young or too old. The social and health implications of these changes are well known, and the way that we live with this situation is one of the great challenges for our generation.

Society at large holds a generally negative view of ageing, but we would also wish to stress the positive potential of ageing to achieve a balanced society comprising of several generations, from newborn babies to ‘active’ great-grandparents. We are, therefore, interested in exploring ways to sustain good health among older adults in an increasingly heterogeneous population, as well as ways to prevent disease in these and other individuals. This requires a transnational cross-disciplinary effort from the research communities spanning medical, biomechanics, biological, and social science disciplines. 

Against this background, the University of Liverpool and Osaka University have developed a programme – Living with an ageing society – where participants from different disciplines can collaborate to develop unique solutions to key challenges in this area.

Purposes

  1. Through lectures and institutional visits, participants will deepen their understanding of the current state of, and issues facing, an ageing society and learn about the latest Japanese initiatives concerning the ageing society.
  2. Through a visit to Tajima Longevity Village, participants will interact with older people in the Tajima area and learn about the various activities carried out by the local authority and community residents to support an ageing society. 
  3. Each group will choose a specific issue related to an ageing society and design a solution for it.
  4. Through discussions with postgraduates and young researchers from other universities in Japan and the UK, participants will develop their critical and communicative abilities.
  5. During the course of the workshop, participants from the member universities will develop interpersonal networks and lay the foundations for future research collaborations and personnel exchange.
  6. Participants will be exposed to Japanese historical and cultural assets.

Overview

There were a wide range of lectures on ageing: “An overview of gerontology research”, “Demography of ageing”, “Universal design and usability for elderly people”, “Ageing-related businesses in Japan”, “The latest robotic technology for an ageing society”, “Differences between and similarities in Japanese and UK approaches to an ageing society”, “Biology of ageing”, “Physiology of ageing”, “Dental and oral dimensions of ageing”, “Social dimensions of ageing”, “Emotional dimensions of ageing”, “Cognitive ageing”. Besides academic lectures, there were also presentations from companies.

The programme included three site visits. The first was an overnight stay in Tajima Longevity Village, located in an ageing community in a rural area. Members of the Silver Human Resources Center of Yabu City introduced various activities carried out by the community to support an ageing society. The participants interacted with the elderly residents through cultural activities such as drama, exercises, rice-cake making, and singing Japanese children’s songs. The second visit was to the ATC Ageless Center, one of the largest permanent exhibitions of health, welfare, and care-related items in Japan.  Finally, participants had the opportunity to visit Comfort Hills Rokko, SECOM’s care service apartments located in Kobe. 

In order to learn about Japanese history and culture, the participants also visited Ikuno in Asago City, where they explored Ikuno Silver Mine, one of the three oldest such mines in Japan. They walked around Ikuno Town, where the workers of Ikuno Silver Mine and their families once lived, and visited Izutsu-ya, Ikuno’s Town Development Workshop. 

Each group selected some specific issues related to an ageing society and discussed solutions to these problems. They presented their ideas on the final day.

Outcomes

Through the workshop, postgraduates and young researchers with an interest in gerontology could understand the cultural differences in perceptions of old age and could discuss and exchange ideas on shared issues, leading to the design of future projects.

They were divided into small groups and each group presented their ideas on the final day of the workshop.

  • Group 1: Three Y Zetto “Elderly Children”
  • Group 2: LEAC “Examining Companion Robot”
  • Group 3: Ulysses “Exploring the Acceptability of High-tech Tools for Enabling Social Interaction in a Cross-Cultural Context: Methodological Considerations”
  • Group 4: IDC “Intelligent Design for Communities”
  • Group 5: Team Godzilla chan “Ichijyu-sansai versus The Sunday Roast”

COORDINATING UNIVERSITIES

  • Osaka University
  • University of Liverpool

ENQUIRIES

renkei@britishcouncil.or.jp

External links