From the Washington Post:
Japan has the world’s oldest population, with an average age of 47 and a life expectancy of more than 81 years. More than 28 percent of its people are over the age of 65, ahead of Italy in second place with 23 percent, and compared with 16 percent of Americans.
But Japan has recorded 1,225 deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, compared with nearly 180,000 in the United States. In Japan, 14 percent of the deaths were in eldercare facilities. That is compared with more than 40 percent in the United States, despite a lower proportion of U.S. seniors living in nursing homes.
The disasters that unfolded in nursing homes in the United States and Western Europe during the pandemic have exposed the neglect and underfunding that have bedeviled elderly care in much of the West. Japan’s more positive experience may offer important lessons for the entire industry as it reviews policies and protocols for the next possible world health crisis.
The contrast is partly because Japan reacted more quickly than Western nations to developments in nearby China, and swiftly tightened controls on staff and visitors at its eldercare homes, said Reiko Hayashi, deputy director general of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
Looking briefly at Japan’s demographics: Population is 126,476,000. The fertility rate is only 1.4, but a rate of 2.1 is needed to actively replace itself without immigration. Life expectancy is 85 years (88.1 for females, 81.9 for males). Median age is 48.4, quite old for a modern economy.
But culture also appeared to play an important role: Experts point to a higher priority given to elderly care within society, stronger measures already in place at care homes to prevent infections and high standards of hygiene.
I can point with great admiration to my cousins. One situation, where my elderly Aunt was confined to a memory care home. My cousins brought her back home since they were not allowed to visit, and she was not lucid enough for Facetime or Zoom.
In another, my cousins removed my two Aunts from Fairwinds, and placed them in a private care home. At Fairwinds, they were isolated in their own rooms, meals were brought to them, and all group activities were eliminated. In the private care home, they could watch television together, eat their meals in the same room, and enjoy some freedom (in their bubble) outside of their own bedroom.
I am so proud of my cousins (Chrissie, Nate, Kenny, Gayle) for doing this. Yes, they can afford both the time and financial resources to do this. But they decided to honor their mothers by making their lives better. And I believe our culture and upbringing resulted in doing what is best for my Aunts.
The pandemic has brought out the best in some people, like my cousins.