Bodies, Technologies, and Aging in Japan: Thinking About Old People and Their Silver Products
- 987 Downloads
Contemporary Japan is known both for its high tech culture and its rapidly aging population, with 22 % of people currently 65 years and older. Yet there has been little attention to the material culture of the elderly. This paper explores the way aging bodies, official ideology, and consumption of what are called “assistive devices” and “life technologies” come together in the experience of frail old people who depend not only on human caregivers but on “things” such as walkers, kidney dialysis machines, and electric massage chairs. It begins to consider the questions: What technology to aid failing bodies is available, and to whom? How does the advocacy of independence create new forms of consumption? How do “things” mediate ideological change regarding elder care and help to create new understandings of self and one’s relation to others? Data come from interviews conducted in 2003–2007 as part of a study of elder care in Japan under the public long term care insurance system that began in 2000. These interviews point both to acceptance of the technology as a way to avoid over-dependence on caregivers, and to resistance to the limitations of aging and to its 21st century definition by the state.
KeywordsAssistive devices Elderly Japan Long term care Meanings of technology
I am grateful to the families who participated in the longitudinal study of family caregiving under the Japanese public long term care insurance system instituted in 2000. My work on this project would not have been possible without the leadership of project directors Suda Yūko and Takahashi Ryūtarō, and qualitative team members Asakawa Noriko, Asano Yūko, Ruth Campbell, Izumo Yūji, Kodama Hiroko, Muraoka Kōko, Nishida Masumi, Nishimura Chie, Shimmei Masaya, and Yamada Yoshiko. Financial support for data collection came from the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Additional funding for data analysis came from the Univers Foundation and John Carroll University. Ruth Campbell, Brenda Robb Jenicke, Kelly Joyce, and [several anonymous reviewers] provided helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this chapter. Assistance in interpreting the data and the creation of the graphs for Figs. 1 and 2 was graciously provided by John Campbell.
- Argenti, N. (2000). Review of Construire la Culture Materielle: L’Homme Qui Pensait avec les Doigts, by Jean-Pierre Warnier. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(2), 352–3.Google Scholar
- Appadurai, A. (1986). Introduction. In A. Appadurai (Ed.), The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective (pp. 3–63). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Ariyoshi, S. (1972). Kōkotsu no hito. Tokyo: Shinchōsha.Google Scholar
- Associated Press (2007). Aging Japan test drives high-tech helpers. CBC, October 4. http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/10/04/tech-aging-hightech.html.
- Bethel, D. L. (1992). Life on Obasuteyama, or Inside a Japanese Institution for the Elderly. In T. S. Lebra (Ed.), Japanese social organization (pp. 109–34). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Trans. by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Cabinet Office, Government of Japan (2002). 2001 White paper on the aging society. http://www8.cao.go.jp/kourei/english/annualreport/2002/02wp-e.html.
- Calasanti, T. M., & Slevin, K. F. (Eds.). (2006). Age matters: Realigning feminist thinking. New York & London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Campbell, J. C. (1992). How policies change: The Japanese government and the aging society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Chéron, E. J. (2011). Elderly consumers in Japan: The most mature ‘silver market’ worldwide. In P. Haghirian (Ed.), Japanese consumer dynamics (pp. 65–90). Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.Google Scholar
- Clark, S. (1994). Japan: A view from the bath. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- Clarke, D. B., Doel, M. A., & Housiaux, K. M. L. (Eds.). (2003). The consumption reader. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Crossland, Z. (2010). Materiality and embodiment. In D. Hicks & M. S. Beaudry (Eds.), Oxford handbook of material culture studies (pp. 386–405). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Doi, T. (1973). The anatomy of dependence. Translated by Bester, J. Tokyo: Kodansha International.Google Scholar
- Dumas, A., & Turner, B. S. (2006). Age and aging: the social world of Foucault and Bourdieu. In J. L. Powell & A. Wahidin (Eds.), Foucault and aging (pp. 145–55). New York: Nova Science Publisher, Inc.Google Scholar
- Featherstone, M., & Wernick, A. (1995). Introduction. In M. Featherstone & A. Wernick (Eds.), Images of aging: Cultural representations of later life (pp. 1–18). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Fowler, C. (2010). From identity and material culture to personhood and materiality. In D. Hicks & M. C. Beaudry (Eds.), Oxford handbook of material culture studies (pp. 352–385). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- German Institute for Japanese Studies (2008). International symposium, “The silver market phenomenon: Business opportunities and responsibilities in the ageing society. http://www.dijtokyo.org/?page=event_detail.php&p_id=504&lang=en).
- Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Haraway, D. J. (1991). A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. In Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature (pp. 149–82). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Health and Welfare Information Association (2008). Home care and rehabilitation equipment industry’s survey for the future development (Results of the survey and discussions). http://www.hcrjapan.org/english/surveys/pdf/survey07.pdf.
- Health and Welfare Information Association (2009). H.C.R. 2009 documentary video. http://www.hcrjapan.org/english/video.html.
- Hess, D. J. (1995). On low-tech cyborgs. In C. H. Gray (Ed.), The cyborg handbook (pp. 371–8). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Japanese Association of Occupational Therapists. (n.d.). Occupational therapy in numbers. http://www.jaot.or.jp/e-number.html.
- Jones, A., & Bolvin, N. (2010). The malice of inanimate objects: Material agency. In D. Hicks & M. C. Beaudry (Eds.), Oxford handbook of material culture studies (pp. 333–51). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Joyce, K., & Mamo, L. (2006). Graying the cyborg: New directions in feminist analyses of aging, science and technology. In T. M. Calasanti & K. F. Slevin (Eds.), Age matters: Realigning feminist thinking (pp. 99–122). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Kaufman, S. (1986). The ageless self. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
- Kawano, S. (2010). Nature’s embrace: Japan’s aging urbanites and new death rites. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- Kelly, W. W. (Ed.). (2004). Fanning the flames: Fans and consumer culture in contemporary Japan. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Kinoshita, Y., & Kiefer, C. (1992). Refuge of the honored: Social organization in a Japanese retirement community. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Kopytoff, I. (1986). The cultural biography of things: Commodification as process. In A. Appadurai (Ed.), The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective (pp. 64–94). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp.Google Scholar
- Lamb, S. (2000). White saris and sweet mangoes: Aging, gender and body in north India. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Loe, M. (2011). Aging our way: Lessons on living from 85 and beyond. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Long, S. O. (2003). Reflections on becoming a cucumber: images of the good death in Japan and the United States. Journal of Japanese Studies, 29(1), 33–68.Google Scholar
- Long, S. O. (2005). Final days: Japanese culture and choice at the end of life. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- Long, S. O. (2008). Someone’s old, something’s new, someone’s borrowed, someone’s blue: Tales of elder care at the turn of the 21st century. In A. Hashimoto & J. Traphagan (Eds.), Imagined families, lived families: Culture and kinship in contemporary Japan (pp. 137–59). Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (2008). Status of long term care insurance system. http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/wp/wp-hw2/part2/p3_0020.pdf.
- Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2011). Changes in the number of long-term care service providers. Annual Health, Labor and Welfare Report 2009–2010. http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/wp/wp-hw4/dl/health_and_welfare_services_for_the_elderly/2011071908.pdf.
- Nihei, M., Inoue, T., & Fujie, M. G. (2008). Psychological influence of wheelchairs on the elderly persons from qualitative research of daily living. Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics, 20(4), 641–9.Google Scholar
- Palmore, E. (1975). The honorable elders: A cross-cultural analysis of aging in Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Plath, D. (2000). Epilogue: Downsizing the material self: Late life and long involvements with things. In S. O. Long (Ed.), Caring for the elderly in Japan and the United States (pp. 334–43). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Rausing, S. (1998). Signs of the new nation: Gift exchange, consumption and aid on a former collective farm in north-west Estonia. In D. Miller (Ed.), Material cultures: Why some things matter (pp. 188–214). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Robb-Jenike B. (2003). Parent care and shifting family obligations in urban Japan. In J. W. Traphagan & J. Knight (Eds.), Demographic change and the family in Japan’s aging society (pp. 177–202). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Robb-Jenike B. (2004). Alone in the family: Great-grandparenthood in urban Japan. In C. Ikels (Ed.), Filial piety: Practice and discourse in contemporary East Asia (pp. 217–44). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rubinstein, R. L. (1992). The significance of personal objects to older people. In J. F. Gubrium & K. Charmaz (Eds.), Aging, self, and community: A collection of readings (pp. 57–70). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
- Tabuchi, H. (2007). Aging Japan eyes cutting edge technology. Washington Post, October 4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/04/AR2007100400379.html.
- Traphagan, J. W. (2000). Taming oblivion: Aging bodies and the fear of senility in Japan. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Traphagan, J. W. (2003). Contesting co-residence: Women, in-laws, and health care in rural Japan. In J. W. Traphagan & J. Knight (Eds.), Demographic change and the family in Japan’s aging society (pp. 203–28). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Traphagan, J. W. (2004b). The practice of concern: Ritual, well-being, and aging in rural Japan. Durham, N.D.: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Woss, F. (1993). Pokkuri temples and aging. In M. R. Mullins, S. Shimazono, & P. Swanson (Eds.), Religion and society in modern Japan (pp. 191–202). Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press.Google Scholar