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Challenges for Societies Living Longer – Japanese and German Experts Consult in Tokyo

  • 2012/10/16

Life expectancy for people in Japan and Germany has increased dramatically in the last century. And that’s not all: people are also in better health when they reach older age – a positive development. At the same time, population levels in both countries are in decline with fewer younger people to maintain the levels. Japan is the world leader in longevity; within Europe, Germany is the country that has a particularly high proportion of older people in the population. The question now is whether the achievements of a welfare state can be still preserved and extended under these demographic conditions. Is there a threat to the performance capacities of the national economies? How are we to deal with these challenges and seize the opportunities that accompany a longer life? And what conclusions can researchers draw from the huge changes in the nature of aging and its so-called ‘plasticity’? At the invitation of the German Research and Innovation Forum Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo), the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the University of Tokyo, around 200 participants came together on the 9th of October to address these questions within the framework of a German-Japanese Symposium held in Tokyo.

(Foto: DWIH)

"Aging is (within biological limits) what we make of it - this is the lesson we've learned from current research in gerontology. We ought not to regard aging populations in Japan and Germany as a challenge, or even a burden, but rather as an enormous opportunity. The extra years of good health gained offers unimagined potential, both for the individual and for society as a whole. Japanese and German researchers can contribute jointly to producing an updated picture of aging in the context of the family, work and all other areas of society, as well as in politics," according to Professor Ursula M. Staudinger, Vice President of the National Academy of Sciences and Jacobs University Bremen.

"In less than twenty years time, a third of the Japanese population will be aged over 65. The rapid change in population structures demands new ways of enabling a healthy and active life for older people. We need some bold thinking: for example, how can we make it possible to continue in work once we're over 80 years old?" asks Professor Hiroko Akiyama, Director of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Tokyo.

"The DWIH Tokyo offers a forum for exchange on issues of fundamental concern to those in industry and academia in Japan and in Germany. This is now the second time that we have addressed the considerable challenge of aging societies. The remarkably high level of interest in today's event - both from representatives of Japanese science and industry and also from numerous non-governmental organisations - shows that the concept of the DWIH Tokyo, namely to serve as an interface between science and industry in Germany and Japan, works," stressed Professor Horst Hippler, President of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK).


German Research and Innovation Forum Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo)
German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
Institute of Gerontology, The University of Tokyo

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