Social Participation vol.1

“Study on social participation among seniors” Overview

Japan NGO Council on Aging (JANCA) was established in October 1998 by Japanese NGOs and NPOs which agree with United Nations Principles for Older Persons (“Independence”, “Self-fulfillment”, “Participation”, “Care”, and “Dignity”) and the theme of International Year of Older Persons 1999 (Towards a society for all ages). JANCA’s missions include promoting measures for an aged society through self-awareness and social participation of older people.

As of 2004, JANCA consists of over 50 organizations, led by Tsutomu Hotta and Keiko Higuchi.

JANCA’s activities include making recommendations for the society (e.g., development of “Charter for Older Persons (1999)” and “Recommendations on social security system reforms (2001)”) and conducting educational and PR activities (e.g., co-sponsoring “Seminar on an Aging Society” and “Symposium for Global Partnership on Ageing” with Cabinet Office and cooperating with Japan Organization for Employment of the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities (JEED) on “Older Workers Employment Festa”).

These activities and recommendations are based on results of “JANCA opinion members” surveys. There are more than 1,500 opinion members who belong to JANCA organizations or who are involved in JANCA activities.

This time we would like to report on the study results regarding social activities among “seniors (middle-aged and old people).” This topic is quite important considering that one in every 4 people is aged 60 and over in Japan and that their social participation is essential for this country.

About the Study

There are more than 30 million people who are aged 60 and over in Japan, about 5 million of whom are old-old and/or needing care and additional 10 million work (full-time and part-time). We know little about social conditions of the remaining 15 million people.

Most of the people who belong to JANCA member organizations or who are involved in JANCA activities in other ways are considered part of these 15 million people. They have desire to participate in the society for self fulfillment. Yet, most of the organizations which could utilize them face serious financial difficulties. Some seniors start their own NPOs to create opportunities for social activities, but it is not easy to run these organizations. Similar reports are heard in many meetings on social participation among seniors. In the meantime, more people are aware of the growing number of seniors who are interested in social activities.

In order to understand the gap between the increasing needs for social participation among seniors and the reality which is not meeting their needs easily, .this study asked opinions of JANCA members.

The interesting finding of this study is that over 60% of the respondents are paid either nothing at all or only for commuting expenses. This reality may partly explain that more than half of the respondents (JANCA Opinion Members) are different from the last study’s respondents.

In Western countries such as U.K. and the U.S.A., it is almost a rule to secure a fair value for volunteer activities. Laws are established to provide volunteer opportunities for seniors. Japan lags behind other countries in terms of development of a voluntary sector (NGOs and NPOs), but the country urgently needs to develop social environment which can promote NGO and NPO activities in response to the growing number of seniors who have become aware of social activities. Compared with the previous study which was conducted 3 years ago, this study shows a higher proportion (about 50%) of the respondents who are involved in activities which support seniors’ social activities. This result gives us some hope. (Shigeyoshi Yoshida, Study Committee Chair)

Social Participation vol.2

Survey Results

Retirees who are involved in social activities: 1,500 people were asked to fill out the survey, of whom 884 responded. Male: 64%; Female: 36%; Average age: 66.7.
2.Living arrangement
Live only with spouse: 49%; Live with their child(ren) or parent(s): 33.1%; Live alone: 7.2%. Live with someone who need care: 18.2%.
3.Health status
Healthy and active: 60.7%; Have chronic conditions but active: 31.2%
Things the respondents do to maintain their health (Most frequent answers)
Watching diet: 76.4%; Having a periodic check-up: 64.5%; Exercising on a regular basis: 63.3%; Having enough sleep: 54.8%; Having a home doctor: 46.4%
The respondents make particular efforts in “Walking: 60.9%” and “Exercising: 40.7%” to maintain their health.
4.Life satisfaction
Saving and assets: 57.6% are satisfied. Housing: 79.8% are satisfied. Highest satisfaction rates: Friends: 93.2%; Family relationships: 86.8%; Relationships with local residents: 77.8%.
5.Financial conditions
Primary financial source: Over 95% of those aged 65 and over and 79.4% of those aged 60 to 64 report “pension.”
Expenses: In addition to foods, housing, and clothes, the respondents spend their money on “Hobby: 49.4%,” “Friends: 45.0%,” “Weddings and funerals: 24.9%.,” “Grandchildren: 18.3%,” and “Nutritional supplement: 17.1%,” and “Sports: 12.1%.”
6.What the respondents are concerned and what they enjoy
Their concerns include “health of themselves and their families: over 60%,” “when they need care: 42.4% of male and 51.3% of female respondents,” “future of their children and grandchildren: 33.4%” and “pension systems: 33.1%.” Respondents enjoy “traveling: 52%,” “spending time with friends: 47.1%,” “volunteer and social activities: 45.2%,” and “spending time with children and grandchildren: 39.6%.”
7.Housing and living environment
The respondents place importance on “Convenience: 50.2%,” “Community services: 36%,” “Living close to their children: 25.3%,” and “Safety: 24.8%” for their future living environment. 76.6% of the respondents say they would like to stay where they lived.Home modifications for the barrier-free environment: Among male respondents aged 65 and over, 24% have done it, 44% have no intention to do it, and 22.5% would like to do it. There is no age difference. Among female respondents, 32.7% of those aged 70 to 74 and 37.5% of those aged 75 and over have done it.

Social Participation vol.3

Survey Results (continues)

8.Social participation
(1) Activities: “Supporting seniors’ social activities: 45.6%,” “Community development: 37%,” “Education: 27.1%,” “Welfare services for the elderly, 25.2%,” “Teaching culture and skills: 11.9%,” and “Environmental protection: 11%.” “Supporting seniors’ social activities” is reported most frequently.

(2) Involvement in the activities: “Being a regular member of an organization: 38.9%” and “Being a board member of an organization: 18%.” In other words, 56.9% or almost 6 in every 10 people belong to an organization.
(3) Reasons for social participation: “Ikigai (aim of life): 57.1%,” “Socialization: 56.8%,” “Social contribution: 47.3%,” “Physical and mental health: 43.1%,” “Appreciation: 40.4%,” and “To confirm their existence: 31.3%.” Only 5.9% of the respondents report financial reasons. In summary, most of the respondents participate in social activity for self fulfillment.

(4) How the respondents found these activities: “Through friends: 39.1%,” Newspaper, TV, and magazines: 32.5%,” and “Newsletters by local municipalities; 27.8%.” Only 8.3% of the respondents report “through the former employment,” which was reported quite frequently in the previous study conducted 4 years ago. Nonetheless, more than 30% of the male respondents aged 70 and over choose this answer.
(5) Supporters of the respondents’ activities: “Spouse: 61.8%,” “Friends: 39.8%,” “Children: 22.6%,” and “Local residents: 22.3%.” It is interesting that “Local residents” is placed 4th, implying that local awareness of voluntary and civic activities are coming close to Western countries.

(6) What is important in social participation: “To utilize previous experiences: 66.1%,” “Appropriate time spent on the activities: 64.3%” and “Provision of necessary expenses: 24.3%.” “Pensions not being cut” is reported by 20.6% of the male respondents and 11.2% of the female respondents aged 60 to 64.

(7) How much the respondents like to be paid per month for their activities: “Only for commuting expenses: 28.5%,” “50,000 ~ less than 100,000 yen: 24.8%,” “Less than 50,000 yen: 17%,” and “Nothing: 14%.” Over 40% of the respondents expect nothing at all or only for commuting expenses. The rates are even higher for those aged 65 and over.

(8) How much the respondents are actually paid per month for their activities: “Nothing: 42.2%,” “Only for commuting expenses: 20.7%,” and “Less than 50,000 yen: 14%.” Over 60% of the respondents are paid either nothing at all or only for commuting expenses.

People may have various interpretations for these results. Yet, it is quite clear that we can not have high expectations on social participation among seniors which is essential in an aged society.