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Message from the Area Director

Professor, Institute of Gerontology,
the University of Tokyo
秋山 弘子

Older-old population is rapidly increasing in Japan. By next 20 years, people aged 75+ will double in number and account for 20% of the total population. More specifically, population aging is drastic in urban areas. A large number of young people seeking good jobs moved from rural areas to metropolitan areas during the period of rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 70s. They are now reaching retirement age. Although population aging has been an issue in rural areas for a long time, it is increasingly becoming an urban issue in Japan. In year 2030, it is also predicted that 10% of people aged 65+ will be demented and 45% will be living alone. Many people in their 80s and 90s will be living alone.

In a study launched in 1987 to track the aging patterns of 6,000 elderly people, it has been shown that 80% were healthy enough to live alone until their mid-70s, then, began to see a gradual decline in their self-sustainability. Given that the population aged 75+ is expected to double in the next 20 years, it is clear that quick action is needed.
One thing that we need do is to find a way to delay, by even two or three years, the age at which people start losing sustainability — in other words, to extend people's healthy life expectancy. Another is to build a social infrastructure that can support the lifestyles of elderly people who need assistance.

The existing infrastructure of communities was built when the population was much younger. We need to redesign both hard and soft infrastructures of communities to meet the needs of the highly aged society. Such effort will require research, design and actions—and collaboration of multi-stakeholders such as a range of academic disciplines, governments, industries and citizens.


Dr. Akiyama received a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois. She has served as a Fellow at the US National Institute on Aging, a Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, and a Professor (of social psychology) at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, the University of Tokyo. In 2006, she became a Professor at the Institute of Gerontology, the University of Tokyo. She is a member of the Science Council of Japan.
Dr. Akiyama's specialty is gerontology. She engaged in the National Survey of the Japanese Elderly, a tracking survey that followed changes in the physical and mental health, economics, and social relations of senior citizens over 20 years. In recent years, she has been pursuing social experiment projects that pioneer to re-design communities to meet the needs of the highly aged society and allow the elderly to successfully ‘age-in-place’.


Institute of Gerontology, the University of Tokyo