More than one in four Japanese is now aged 65 or older, and by now nearly everyone has heard about the challenges Japanese society is facing as a result. The population continues to age and people continue to have fewer children—so how will the younger generations support their elders? Our ability to answer these questions will shape the future of our nation.
If you’re reading this article, you most likely have at least some interest in caring for senior citizens. But how much do you really know about the realities that people working on its front lines face? Most people at least have a vague sense that it is difficult, perhaps heartbreaking, work.
But BS Fuji created a stir last year with a television program that turned this popular image on its head. How did they do it? Read on to find out more.
The program, titled Nippon no Kaname (The Heart of Japan) opened students’ eyes to the joy of caring for the elderly by having them actually experience it in real nursing-care settings. As their preconceived ideas began to change, the students started taking action that came from a desire to bring joy to senior citizens on their own initiative—and in the process created even more profound change.
BS Fuji has now released the program archives to the public, so now’s your chance to catch what you missed!
Go to the 2019 Nippon no Kaname archives
The goal of the program was to have college students studying social services and eldercare team up with high school students with no knowledge of either field, and have them go to actual eldercare settings together to experience them firsthand. This resulted in significant changes that ultimately inspired the students to plan and host their own unique event. The viewers are able to gain a deep understanding of what a job in eldercare really entails, and as a result change the misconceptions that many people have about this line of work.
Most people think of eldercare as primarily involving the physical care of the elderly—helping with daily meals, bathing, elimination, and so on. But the program reveals that there are actually many different ways of caring for and engaging with senior citizens.
In the first episode, we see a type of music therapy event where a student who plays the electronic organ gives a performance and sings along with a group of seniors. Although she’s nervous and looks a bit overwhelmed at first, the experience makes her realize that she can use her talents to bring senior citizens joy, and she ends the performance excitedly enjoying her work with the elderly.
Later episodes introduce the participants to a variety of other forms that eldercare can take, including visiting cosmetologists that provide hair and makeup services, or travel assistants who take seniors on trips, to musicals, or to art exhibitions. By understanding the significance of work that brings joy to seniors and experiencing it firsthand, the students begin to change their ideas about what eldercare means. It is the hands-on experience that brings understanding, and the understanding that leads to change.
Having students with zero knowledge or experience in social services or eldercare interact with senior citizens results in some awkward communication at first, but it is moving to see the way the participants change as they gradually relax. What they discover is that bringing people joy and making them smile is part of the fundamentals of what eldercare is all about.
Most people have no idea what it’s like to actually be in an eldercare setting, so their understanding of it is littered with stereotypes. At the end of the series, even television personality Jun Kaname commented that he also had such perspective that eldercare was heavily colored by the challenges that the work entails and his image of caring for the elderly was vague until he watched the series.
But actually experiencing the work firsthand made it seem more approachable, and showed the participants that the caregivers themselves also experience greater joy as a result. Through the students, the program proved that it is indeed understanding that has the power to change people’s assumptions about the world of eldercare.
Caring for the elderly is not something that only family members or professional caregivers do—it is work for the entire community that is enhanced by support from technology and from in other fields. The music therapy event and the visiting hair and makeup artists are prime examples of this.
What this means is that every one of us has plenty of opportunities to get involved in eldercare settings doing what we do best, even without professional or assistant qualifications.
Take a moment to think about it. What talents do you have that you could share with senior citizens? What could you do to bring joy to their faces?
【2021 Nippon no Kaname broadcast schedule】
Last year’s Nippon no Kaname series was such a success that they broadcasted again this year!
Episode 1: February 7 (Sunday) 2:00–2:30 PM
Episode 2: February 14 (Sunday) 12:00–12:30 PM
Episode 3: February 28 (Sunday) 2:00–2:30 PM
An online workshop was held where students currently studying social services and eldercare presented their ideas on ways to give people a more positive image of the fields and to improve them. The 2021 episodes focus on the workshop and the people who are taking steps to bolster the reputation of jobs that support senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
We hope you’ll take the time to watch the new season, as it will give you a clearer picture of what eldercare and social services are like today as well as an inspiring look at where they’re headed and what you can do to get involved.
Learn more about the program
This program is brought to you by Sankei Bldg Techno’s Experiential Social Services and Nursing Care Project. Click the link below to read an article explaining more about this initiative.
About the Experiential Social Services and Nursing Care Project