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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Sieun Park

Since March 2019

Many countries currently face an ageing society. Conspicuously, Japan is experiencing one of the most alarming rates in the world with an ageing rate of 27.7% in 2018, which is expected to be 38.1% by 2060. The dramatic growth of the senior population demands much support and attention from policy decision-makers and other stakeholders.

Concerns about social challenges seniors and also society face due to rapid social changes have surfaced as a serious issue. For example, solitary lifestyles and death, social demands on senior health care services, and social exclusion due to the digital divide are among many social problems. Above all, the Digital Divide is one of the critical issues, as Internet penetration and usage rates increase. For modern society, the Internet is the necessary article to obtain indispensable and useful information on daily life, easily and quickly. Hence, for those who do not have accessibility to the internet, it may demand more efforts, costs and time to find the relevant data, and could make them socially excluded.

For this reason, the Japanese government considers promoting the usability of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among the elderly as a means to provide the elderly with opportunities for community engagement, better quality of health care services, and an independent lifestyle. In 2016, the government announced it would build ‘Society 5.0,’ as a new strategy. Through the strategy, they expect a high level of usability and hope to promote the digital literacy among their citizens, and also to prolong elderly independent and health lifestyles as well as their social engagement.

While ICT is a focus of the Japanese government for dealing with senior issues, many elderlies tend to avoid using the Internet. For instance, the percentage of Internet users among the elderly remains consistently lower compared to average rates of other age demographics, and the number of senior users itself remains steady during all the survey. This phenomenon causes the government to place most efforts towards the spread of using the ICT among the elderly and building the relevant infrastructures.

In connection with this circumstance, central to this project are the two ideas of digital literacy for the elderly in Japan and ICT policy for their independent living. It addresses how the current Information and Communication Policy and related practices, programmes, and organisations in Japan encourage and assist the elderly in using ICT applications to prolong independent living. As for research methods, it will be policy document analysis, interviews with relevant stakeholders and seniors, and case studies as well.