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Ageing society and ICT. A new growth industry?

Naoko Iwasaki, Associate Professor at the Institute of e‑Government, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan

Societies are ageing throughout the world, and information and communication technologies (ICT) offer responses to this dynamic social change. A good ICT policy will provide the services and tools that match the needs of elderly people. It is especially important to improve their accessibility of e‑services as a way of enhancing their daily lives. There are four areas in which ICT can play an essential role for elderly people: infrastructure; lifelines; communications; and enhancement of the richness of daily life. In Japan, for example, older people particularly appreciate applications that offer them access to social welfare services and regional activities. They also benefit from access to educational opportunities, for example through Internet classrooms.

Japan as a forerunner of ageing societies

Japan has the highest ratio in the world of 65-year-olds to total population — at 25.1 per cent in 2013. It also has the longest life expectancy. In 2012, the average lifespan was 79 years for men and 86 years for women. The ageing society will pose a challenge not only to Japan but to all countries of the world.

Although at present the percentage of elderly people in developing countries is relatively low, according to United Nations estimates their proportion is increasing more rapidly in those countries than in developed ones. Thus, developing countries will have less time to adjust to the consequences of population ageing. Since the 1980s, there have been more older people in developing countries than in developed ones. In China alone, the number of people over 60 years of age is expected to reach 400 million (26 per cent of the total population) by 2040, which is more than the combined current populations of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. There is no time to lose in putting policies in place to respond to the needs of elderly citizens.

European and Asian countries, such as China and the Republic of Korea, are watching how Japan is preparing for its silver society. Japan has an opportunity to construct a model for the efficient use of ICT in an ageing society. 

Social consequences of Japan’s ageing population

About 40 per cent of the total population of Japan in 2050 will be aged 65 years or more. Not only that, but the total population of Japan has been decreasing gradually since 2004. Japan is the only society in the world today that is experiencing both population decrease and super ageing. This social change will make current policies obsolete and will require new approaches.

The statistics presented in the table indicate some of the social trends associated with the ageing population in Japan, but they do not paint the full picture. Based on the statistics available in 2013, it is expected that 40 years from now, the total population of Japan will have decreased by more than a quarter.

“According to a survey of about 300 people aged over 60 years carried out by the Institute of e‑Government, Waseda University, and other research centres, some 80 per cent of elderly citizens in Japan can be categorized as “active ageing”. About 80 per cent of retired people are looking for jobs but only 20 per cent of them can get jobs.

Accessibility and usability

According to a survey of some 300 people aged over 55 years carried out in 2010 by the Institute of e‑Government, 80 per cent of respondents were able to use ICT and did so every day. Of these, 50 per cent learned how to use the devices on their own, while 20 per cent were taught by others; and 18 per cent considered that no learning or teaching was needed because the devices could be intuitively understood and 6 per cent found that the instructions for use of the devices were easy to follow. Most elderly people in Japan can use a mobile phone and the mobile Internet. Those who cannot use these ICT tools want to be able use them if they have the opportunity to learn how.

Read the full article online: https://itunews.itu.int/En/4624-Ageing-society-and-ICT-BR-A-new-growth-i...