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Organizer and Chair: John W. Traphagan, University of Michigan
Discussant: Susan O. Long, John Carroll University
The proportion of Japans population aged sixty-five and over doubled from 7.1 percent in 1970 to 14.5 percent in 1995, and is projected to double again by 2035. At the same time, there has been a marked decline in the proportion of elderly living in extended families, which has been accompanied by shifting ideas about where responsibility lies for provision of health care in old age. This panel examines family and health for older Japanese from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Our aim is to explore the integration of quantitative demographic and qualitative anthropological data in order to improve our understanding of Japans aging society. Papers are paired by topic so that a dialogue can arise from respective approaches to the same problems. The first pair explore changing patterns of child/parent living arrangements and their relationship to obligations concerning care for elderly parents. The second pair extend this theme by discussing health decline in later life and the means by which older Japanese attempt to manage changes in health status.
By considering the intersection of demography and anthropology, we show how trends in Japanese society evident through macro-level data are experienced and expressed by individuals in relation to the sociocultural values that shape behavior. Furthermore, we show how understanding demographic data can help to contextualize the experiences of individuals. Integrating these approaches should provide a means to better understand social change in Japan as the society ages and to recognize the nuance of experience as individuals react to and stimulate that change.
Changes in the Living Arrangements of Japanese Elderly: The Role of Demographic Factors
James M. Raymo, University of Michigan
The proportion of Japanese elderly residing in extended families has declined significantly over the past twenty-five years. The most common explanations for this change stress socioeconomic and attitudinal factors such as improved economic status of the elderly and an increased desire for privacy. While these are surely important determinants of living arrangement decisions, they are not the only factors that merit consideration. The distribution of living arrangements at any given point in time is influenced not only by individual desires, but also by demographic constraints such as age structure, marital status, mortality conditions, and past fertility behavior.
This paper focuses on demographic constraints thought to affect living arrangements among the elderly. Our primary objectives are to document trends in living arrangements of the elderly and to analyze the relationship between living arrangements and their hypothesized correlates at both the aggregate and individual levels. After discussing the information on living arrangements available from the census, we use these data to document changes in living arrangements between 1975 and 1995. In the second section, we quantify the impact of changes in age-structure, nuptiality, and living arrangements on changes in household type distributions between 1975 and 1995. In the third section, we use data from the National Survey of the Japanese Elderly, 1987 to estimate a standard model for living arrangements. We estimate the effect of demographic and socioeconomic variables on whether elderly respondents live in single, nuclear, or extended households.
Co-Residence, Health Care, and Quality-of-Life among Older Rural Japanese
John W. Traphagan, University of Michigan
This paper focuses on the relationship between living arrangements and quality of life for elderly people living in rural Japan. Two questions are considered: What kinds of negotiations occur between parents and children in terms of organizing health care and living arrangements in late life? What are the effects of co-residence with children on quality of life for the elderly? I will suggest that negotiating co-residence and co-residence itself are often significant sources of stress for both parents and their children. This is particularly true when there is either an expectation or demand on the part of parents that a child who has departed for life in a city, and married while away, return to co-reside.
The paper presents four ethnographic case studies in order to examine negotiation processes that surround decision-making concerning provision of health care and co-residence, and also to consider the strategies used to cope with difficulties that arise with co-residence between older people and a childs family. One of the cases will focus on a family in which stress and fear over declining health and quality of life apparently contributed to the suicide of an elderly woman. This paper draws upon two field trips in northern Japan. The first took place in a small town over eighteen months during 199596, and the second over six months during 1998 in a neighboring city. Data collection consisted of both in-depth ethnographic interviews and focus group sessions with older people and their children.
Does a Longer Life Mean a Healthier Life? The Case of the Japanese Elderly
Toshiko Kaneda, University of North Carolina
Between 1975 and 1995, Japanese life expectancy increased by six years for women and by nearly five years for men. While many previous studies have documented this change, the nature of the years added to later life has often been overlooked. The question remains; does a longer life mean a healthier life, or does it merely extend the period of substandard health? In this paper, we first examine the changes in cause of death behind the increase in Japanese life expectancy and then, focusing on physical well-being, consider the quality of the years added to life.
In the first part of the paper, after documenting age-specific trends in causes of death, we employ multiple decrement life tables for the years 1975, 1985, and 1995 in order to decompose the improvements in overall life expectancy into the contributions of various cause-specific mortality improvements. In the second part, after documenting trends in several indicators of physical well-being among the elderly, we use life tables and statistics on morbidity prevalence for the same three years to construct hypothetical life courses classified according to health status. We focus on three indicators of poor health; limitations with activities of daily living (ADLs), institutionalization, and netakiri (bedridden). Assuming that these conditions are distributed evenly over five-year age intervals enables us to describe changes in number of years that Japanese over age sixty-five are expected to live in one of the above conditions.
Parent Care and Shifting Family Obligations in Urban Japan
Brenda Robb Jenike, University of California, Los Angeles
Intergenerational contracts within the urban Japanese family are shifting in response to the growing availability of public care services for dependent and frail elderly. Based on a series of in-depth interviews with twenty-six families over the course of 199697 in both a blue-collar ward and white-collar suburb of Tokyo, I will illustrate this shift with five case studies of daughters-in-law who turned to services for their ailing parents-in-law. The public message in Japan regarding parent care has changed from an emphasis on experiential (empathetic) care to the merits of professional (institutional) care, thus making public care services more socially acceptable. I will argue, however, that, at the individual level, a daughter-in-laws attempts to relinquish her obligations of total care for her parents-in-law to outsiders can be a volatile and traumatic process. Such a process triggers her reassessment of her status and power within her family of marriage, along with the unsettling realization that she and her husband will also have to rely on care outside the family for their own old age. Variables include level of dependence for the elderly parent, the personal relationship between the daughter-in-law and her parents-in-law, the awareness of the husband regarding care duties, the age of the daughter-in-law, and socioeconomic status. These highly qualitative data will be related to wider trends in family care and service usage in urban Japan.