The Public Library in an Aging Society: Developing Active Library Participation in Japan

The Public Library in an Aging Society: Developing Active Library Participation in Japan

Saori Donkai (University of Tsukuba, Japan) and Chieko Mizoue (University of Tsukuba, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch049
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Abstract

This chapter describes the present conditions of our aging society, with a particular focus on Japan as a typical example of such a society. In Japan, one in every four individuals is over 65 years of age, and one in eight is over 75 years of age. Further, based on this demographic change to an older population, this chapter discusses a new library service designed to enhance the lives of elderly citizens. The authors explore this new service from the viewpoint of lifelong learning, utilizing the results of recent government surveys and some case studies, such as those done at the Izumo City Hikawa Library and the Akita Prefectural Library in Japan. Although the elderly have been placed within the category of “disabled library patrons,” in recent years, it has become more common to consider the elderly, as a whole, as an individual service category. We should, in the near future, pay more attention to supporting elderly citizens at public libraries to engage them in the development and maintenance of their own communities.
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Advancing An Aging Society

Japan represents a typical nation with a demographic shift toward the older population (Figure 1). In 2012, Japan’s total population was 127.5 million, of which 31 million were over 65 years of age (24.3%) (Statistical Bureau, 2013b). Now in Japan, one in every four individuals is over 65 years of age, and one in eight is over 75 years of age (15 million).

Figure 1.

Japan’s total population and elderly ratio (Source: Statistical Bureau, 2013b)

Coulmas (2007) indicates that there are three types of society based on the aging population rate and the proportion of population over the age of 65: aging society in which 7–14% of the population are 65 years of age or older, aged society in which 14–21% are over 65, and a hyper-aged society in which 21% or more are over 65. Japan is already a hyper-aged society.

Furthermore, the speed of population aging in Japan’s society has witnessed unprecedented advancements. As Figure 2 shows, in 1950, approximately 60 years ago, the rate of population aging was less than 5%. Until the 1980s, the Japan’s rate was ranked lower than that of most other developed countries. However, in the 1990s, the rate increased to a moderate position, and by 2010, Japan’s rate of aging population was one of the highest in the world (Cabinet Office, 2011a).

Figure 2.

Population aging rate by selected countries (Source: United Nations, 2013)

Table 1 indicates that France and Sweden required 115 years and 85 years, respectively, for the proportion of their elderly population to increase from 7% to 14%. However, Japan took only 24 years, growing from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.1% in 1994. These comparisons indicate the rapid pace of aging population in Japan.

Table 1.
Speed of population aging in selected countries: elderly population increases from 7% to 14%
CountriesYears
France (1865–1980)115
Sweden (1890–1975)85
Australia (1938–2011)73
United States (1944–2013)69
Canada (1944–2009)65
United Kingdom (1930–1975)45
Spain (1947–1992)45
Japan (1970–1996)26
China (2000–2026)26
Thailand (2002–2024)22
Brazil (2011–2032)21
Singapore (2000–2019)19
Colombia (2017–2036)19
South Korea (2000–2018)18

(Source:Cabinet Office, 2011a)

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