Elderly Homes in Japan

Initial Interest

Background information

One of the main issues facing Japan is the number of elderly people whose numbers have been growing for decades. In 2014, estimates showed that 33% of the population was above 60 and about 26% are 65 or older, while 12.5% of Japan is 75 or older. A staggering quarter of the population that is above 65 is predicted to reach a 1/3rd of the population by 2050. In previous decades it was custom for the eldest Japanese son to take in his mother after the passing of his father in order to take care of her. However as the culture is watered down —especially in large cities— this practice becomes rarer and rarer forcing the elderly to become more independent. In the year 2000, a law called Kaigo Hoken was passed which was insurance for nursing care. Under this new law, the Japanese government began subsidizing senior care facilities and incentivizing their construction. However, being very new there were consequences that were not foreseen including fraudulant companies as well as hazardous buildings due to the fact that there was no proper oversight of financial reports and licenses.


Elderly are typically given the expectation that they should choose a public nursing home due to their lower income. Although there is an increasing number of said homes, it is not near enough to keep up with the ever-rising demand. The Japanese government states that 400,000 elderly are awaiting faculties to open up so they can move in. However, some state that some of those seniors are still able to function on their own and can manage to wait longer. If urgent care is needed it seems that nursing homes are able to take in people in certain situations. 

Current situation

There are hundreds of nursing homes all over Japan a majority of which were constructed in the last 15 years. Cheap land and remote areas are often taken advantage of. The further from the city the cheaper the care is, and so local government will often move poorer elders to unfamiliar regions because the local care is out of their price range.  Of course, the living condition is quite reliant on the income of the individual because the more you can pay the better your facilities will be. The prices for a nursing home can be from 5 million yen to 100 million yen and must be paid upfront. A percentage of your initial deposit is typically taken annually until the resident either leaves the facility or more typically passes away. The remaining fee is either returned to the depositor or to the heirs. 

Types of Care

There are 2 categories of nursing homes. The first is a Residence in which the home only provides room and board. There is no medical or personal care given to the individual and if there is need of care someone from outside must be brought in. Whereas the second option which is a Facility home will treat them as a patient. There are also some facilities which have both but typically in separate building or floors but a resident can be moved to one or the other. The main issue here is once again the fact that hands-on care is very expensive and many people will opt out of the caregiving aspect and just give their parents/grandparents a place to live.

What is Being Done and What Should Continue

There is an assessment grade to determine what type of care is necessary ranging from 1 to 5. 1 being no care necessary and 5 is a lot of care necessary. Price is dependant on the type of care needed but the government has a pretty solid welfare system to take on the costs. However, for those who become ill in residents will have an attendant check on them but if the illness is chronic they may be asked to leave. Programs should ideally be set up in order to help the transition into a facility home. New healthcare bills in Japan have made it so that seniors who have been hospitalized for over 3 months are moved into facilities in order to prevent unnecessary drains on the insurance system. Once in a facility, if you must share a room they do not have to pay rent which is a really fortunate thing for many seniors. Another program that is probably the best thing that has been set up is, senior citizens who are receiving welfare can be given a room and meals in exchange for their welfare payments being signed over. This is good because people on welfare and people who have mental disabilities struggle to find homes due to the fact no one will take them on. Taking in these types of people in nursing homes really has no downside and helps the community greatly.


  • “Elderly Care Service | RIEI Co., Ltd.” 株式会社リエイ,
  • “Gov’t Cost-Cutting Policy Linked to Rise in ‘Nursing Care Refugees’.” The Mainichi, 1 July 2016,
  • Tsuchiya, Takashi. “Elderly Care in Japan.” Lit Osaka, Osaka City University ,

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  1. April 26, 2019 by Kennedy

    I have never really heard about this topic before so I found this presentation very interesting. You mentioned that in the past it has been expected that the eldest Japanese son would take care of his mother after his father’s passing, but that now this practice is becoming rarer making it such that more elderly are moving into these homes. Do you know why this practice is becoming rarer? Do you think the eldest son or child should still be expected to care for their parent or that with improvement these elderly homes can offer a better option? You also mentioned that this issue was of particular interest to you because you know someone elderly who could have possibly gone into these homes but didn’t due to taboos surrounding it as well as poverty. What specific taboos are you referring to? Why do you think there is stigma around going into these homes? Is it because of the implication that you cannot take care of yourself and don’t have family that is willing to take care of you or is there more?

  2. April 28, 2019 by Wesley.Breier

    This is a really cool project idea. I am curious as to how you came up with this idea, but it is definitely worth looking further into considering the huge numbers in the elderly population as you stated throughout your presentation. To what extent do you think that people living in places very far from Japan such as the US or European countries have an influence as to what happens next for these people?

  3. May 05, 2019 by Hana

    This is a very important topic. It’s very good that you researched this because it is a prominent issue. Why do you think these homes are so common for elders as, from my knowledge, it is Japanese culture to give back by caring for your elderly parents?

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