It’s no surprise that the U.S. population is aging, and quickly: By 2060, it’s predicted that there will be nearly 100 million adults over age 65, increasing the percentage of the population from 15 to 24 percent. However, this pales in comparison to Japan, where 27 percent of the current population is already over age 65.
However, today’s 65-plus demographic is not the same as previous generations. More than ever before, seniors wish to age in place, remaining in their own homes as long as possible. The U.S. and Japan have different approaches to making this happen, and have agreed to a collaboration to learn more about how to support aging in place and housing finance for seniors. The collaboration, launched in June 2017 and involving the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) and Ginnie Mae, is designed to find new and innovative ways to safely and affordably house aging populations.
Combining Different Approaches
Currently, the U.S. and Japan approach aging and senior housing in vastly different ways. In the U.S., our older citizens rely primarily on support from the private and nonprofit sectors, as well as volunteers from local agencies on aging and family caregivers. Access to services is largely dependent on an individual’s geographic location and income, with only a segment of the population eligible for government assistance with housing and other services.
In contrast, Japanese seniors are heavily dependent on the government for the services and resources that they need. At the same time, Japan is leaps and bounds ahead of the U.S. in terms of the options and technology available for aging in place, including advanced devices in the home for bathing, monitoring, and sleeping, as well as more efficiently designed homes that better support multi-generational living.
While each country has its strengths and advantages when it comes to supporting aging in place, officials believe that each can learn from the other and develop stronger, more effective programs that better meet seniors’ needs.
The Focus of the Collaboration
Recently, HUD and Ginnie Mae hosted leaders from Japan at the U.S.-Japan Housing and Finance Innovation Forum, a daylong meeting designed to identify the priorities and the focus of the aging in place collaboration. The group determined that housing is the key to any successful plan that will preserve the quality of life for older adults. The ability to age in place and how active and healthy seniors can remain throughout their older years depends largely on affordable, accessible housing, and how well that housing can support long-term care — as well as the availability of long-term care options within the community.
With that priority in mind, the forum identified the areas for study between the two nations. These specific areas of interest include:
- Finding innovative approaches to financing aging in place
- Uncovering the connections between health and housing
- Evaluating the effectiveness of public-private partnerships
- How to create healthy and accessible communities
- How to develop viable policies in an environment of limited resources and constrained budgets
The overall objective of these priorities is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s approach to these issues, and develop new and innovative ideas for improving housing for seniors and supporting their desires to remain at home and maintain quality of life.
For example, one project related to this collaboration is already underway here in the U.S. HUD has already launched a demonstration project designed to evaluate how well housing that includes services, including home health care provided by a wellness nurse and a service coordinator, helps low-income seniors avoid moving into a skilled nursing facility or other institution for care, and how well it improves their health and quality of life. The U.S. will share the results of this trial with Japan, allowing both countries to learn from them. Similar research projects are underway in Japan as well, and sure to garner insights that U.S. officials can learn from.
While there are undoubtedly cultural issues and preferences that influence how seniors age and where they will live, the U.S. and Japan can certainly learn from each other to develop innovative solutions that will ensure seniors are able to live longer, healthier lives, and do so affordably. With the population aging at such a fast rate, it only makes sense that we would look at how we approach aging issues and find better ways to support and care seniors.
To learn more about tools and solutions that can help you run your agency more efficiently and better support your clients’ efforts to age in place, check out Complia Health’s resources here and contact us for more information.