We can learn from Japan when it comes to aged care

Date: 15/03/2002

As NSW prepares to celebrate Seniors Week, Professor John McCallum says Australia can learn some important lessons from Japan when it comes to caring for our elderly.

Professor McCallum, Dean of the College of Social and Health Sciences at UWS, said Japan leads the way when it comes to keeping its elderly citizens socially active and self-reliant.

"The Japanese government places a strong emphasis on keeping older people in the workforce. They have developed government supported self-help organisations, Silver Human Resource Centres, which provide various forms of paid employment for older people," said Professor McCallum.

"In Australia our workforce is beginning to shrink and there are already critical shortages of skilled workers in professions such as nursing, policing and teaching. We need to take a leaf out of Japan's book and find ways of keeping people at work for longer."

Professor McCallum was speaking following a visit of four senior Japanese officials from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

The Ministry staff came to hear about the Australia-Japan Partnership in Aged Care project led by Professor McCallum, which compared aged care policies and practices in Australia and Japan.

Professor McCallum said Japan has reached the political, social and economic crossroads with the most rapidly aging population on earth.

"Until recently Australia and Japan had similar proportions of older people however Japan's population is ageing much more rapidly, due to a dramatically decreasing fertility rate and an absence of immigration," he said.

"As a result, the Japanese have had to adapt their aged care systems and management to relieve the growing burden of care on families and develop more institutional and community services.

"Australia on the other hand, has had a long reliance on institutional care and is now realising it needs to place a greater emphasis on providing community care."

According to Professor McCallum, the Australia-Japan Partnership in Aged Care study is giving both countries an opportunity to share the challenges that come with an ageing population.

"It is very important that ageing countries, in particular Asia-Pacific partners like Australia and Japan, exchange ideas about ageing.

"We have to find ways of developing trade to meet the needs of older people. The trade in expertise is one important dimension of the export of aged care services," said Professor McCallum.

The visiting officials were:

Mitsunori Abe, Deputy Director Personnel, Minister's Secretariat, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Hideki Tarumi, Senior Assistant for Planning, Health and Welfare Bureau for the Elderly
Akemi Kaneko, Nursing Assistant Director, Health and Welfare Bureau for the Elderly
Masato Kanai, Supervisor General Affairs Division, Health and Welfare Bureau for the Elderly

For more information or requests for interviews:

Amanda Whibley
Media Officer
phone: (02) 9678 7472
mobile: 0418 438 399
email: a.whibley@uws.edu.au