Elder Care Practices in Okinawa: Tradition in Transition
Western social scientists are keenly aware of the rapid pace of societal change that has occurred over the past century as a result of industrialization and urbanization as well as technological advances in transportation and communication. We are also aware of subsequent changes in family and other interpersonal relationships. Often, however, we remain oblivious to similar changes in other cultures. This paper explores the implications of social change within an Asian culture by focusing on elder care practices. The paper draws on qualitative data collected in September, 2007, in Okinawa, Japan. Data gathered via participant observation and interviews with elders, family caregivers, and health care professionals is used to illustrate the transition that is occurring in traditional elder care practices within a society where population aging has resulted in a dramatic increase in the proportion of elders in relation to younger family members available to provide needed care. A similar process is also occurring in many western societies. This phenomenon presents challenges to government sponsored programs as well as to individuals and families. The recent implementation of a national long-term care insurance program in Japan is likely to hasten this transition in traditional elder care practices.
Keywords: Population Aging, Elder Care Practices, Asian Cultures, Family Caregivers, Qualitative Research
Dr. Loretta Brewer
Associate Professor, Department of Social Work