The nation should mitigate the impact of the senior population explosion in Tokyo and adjacent areas by encouraging elderly residents to move away, a private-sector organization has recommended in a report.
In a report released Thursday, the Japan Policy Council identified 41 areas in 26 prefectures where welfare services are in good supply, such as Kagoshima and Toyama. It said Tokyo’s elderly should consider moving there.
Citing a National Institute of Population and Social Security Research statistic showing a significant increase in the senior population in the Tokyo area, the report warns that places where senior care will be available will face serious shortages of nursing care facilities and housing. It also warns that the limited amount of real estate in Tokyo will make it difficult to address the shortage.
The institute predicts that there will be 1.75 million more people 75 or older in the Tokyo area by 2025, bringing the total to 5.72 million. This represents about one-third of the nation’s total population growth in that period.
Although the area around the capital currently has enough surplus nursing home capacity for 10,000 people, its estimate shows the shortage will reach about 130,000 people in 2025 and 160,000 in 2040.
The Tokyo area includes the three adjacent prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
“They say the risk posed by population concentration in the Tokyo area is earthquakes, but the issue of the aging population is also a threat,” said former internal affairs minister Hiroya Masuda, who heads the Japan Policy Council. “The four local governments in the area and the governments of outside areas must cooperate closely.”
Masuda made the comments Thursday during the release of the report.
In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the same day that the step recommended by the report “can alleviate the issue of the declining population in rural areas, stimulate regional consumption, as well as maintain and create employment.”
He also said the government will encourage seniors to relocate, support regional economic growth and “alleviate the concentration of the elderly population in the Tokyo area.”
Analysts said, however, that such a plan will take a lot of time to complete because the regions named in the plan may be reluctant to accept a large influx of seniors that could strain their already strapped budgets.
“I feel a little uncomfortable about the idea of forcing senior citizens to rural areas,” said Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa.
The report notes that an additional 800,000 to 900,000 workers will be required to provide sufficient medical and nursing care services in the area in 2025, but that the demand will likely exacerbate the population drain already under way in rural areas.
It thus sees moving seniors away as a more viable measure, as there are municipalities that will still have room in their welfare facilities and the personnel to cover them. It also noted that services are cheaper outside the capital. The report also urges, for rural areas willing to accept elderly refugees, the introduction of continuing-care retirement communities, where towns are equipped not only with housing, medical and nursing care services, but also more comprehensive services and functions, such as life-long education.
Each of the 41 areas recommended by the group overlap several municipalities. They were selected from 344 areas nationwide classified by the government as generally capable of addressing the medical care needs of hospitalized patients, the report said.
Selections were based on such factors as number of beds at nursing care facilities that can be used by people 75 or older.
The council made headlines in May last year by warning that 896 municipalities across Japan are at risk of extinction because they lack women of child-rearing age.