Leading Aging Society Forum

Leading Aging Society Forum—Coordination Platform for Senior Citizens Health and Welfare
Location: Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,000,000 (approx. US$61,700)

The Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund made a grant of ¥5 million to the Leading Aging Society Forum for its “Coordination Platform for Senior Citizens Health and Welfare.” The grant was made possible thanks to the MetLife Foundation and other funders.

Japan’s population is aging faster than that of any other country in the world, which has important implications for everyday life as well as for the country’s ability to recover from disasters. The Leading Aging Society Forum was established shortly before the March 11 disaster by doctors and other healthcare workers who wanted to devise new approaches to the societal problems associated with an aging population, with the hope that these could serve as models for other countries that will soon face similar challenges. Once the earthquake and tsunami hit, the group turned its attention to helping senior citizens in the city of Ishinomaki, teaming up with local government agencies, social service providers, and area nonprofits to create a coordination platform to survey the actual needs of seniors and ensure that none slip through the cracks as different agencies try to respond to their various needs.

In particular, they found that while many government and NPO initiatives were targeting those in temporary shelters, relatively little assistance was being provided to those who had opted to stay in their homes, many of whom are elderly. Accordingly, they have been working to coordinate efforts to visit these people, check on their medical and other needs, and provide follow-up with the appropriate professionals so that these people get the support they need for their health and their lives. This information is then used to compile a database about people’s health and needs. In this way, they hope to prevent suicide and deaths in isolation, and contribute to reviving the local community.

In addition to supporting the group’s work in Ishinomaki, this funding will help the Leading Aging Society Forum’s work to replicate its successful model in other communities in the disaster zone, starting with Yamada and Kesennuma. In doing so, they will provide training and technical advice to communities on creating local coordination initiatives and they will serve as facilitators for various groups that are trying to work together. Ultimately, these efforts are intended to serve as new models of public-private collaboration in filling the emerging holes in the social safety net at a time when public funding is coming under increasing strain.