Japan's Present, Europe's Future?

Japan is a country that has an aging population.  Actually, they are just plain old.  The Japanese live long because of their healthy diets, and their modern economic miracle (post-World War II) has led to a society that doesn't produce enough children.  Economically, it has a rough road ahead with too few young people in the work force.  But there's also the problem that Japan's younger generations are not experiencing economic prosperity, but rather economic decline. Is this Europe's future?  Russia, Italy, and Germany are just three countries that are facing a similar trend.  There are many old people, few children, and not enough people other than the old with financial security.

I've often wondered if both in Japan and Europe, whether Christian churches have done enough to reach the elderly.  It is something I have wanted to explore for a long time.  Three Worlds hopes to utilize senior citizens in a variety of ways in the future.  My mind is still in the planning stages on these things, but my wheels are turning.

In both Italy and Spain last month, I learned of ministry opportunities involving the aged.  The challenge of older people is that their minds are often made up.  But they are also far closer to having to face the reality of mortality.

Even advertising in Japan is having to change with such an old society:

Fascinating information from a recent Economist article.

Ueshima never explicitly describes itself as a coffee shop for the elderly. But it targets them relentlessly—and stealthily. Stealthily, because the last thing septuagenarians want to hear is that their favourite coffee shop is a nursing home in disguise.

Japan is greying fast: already a fifth of its people are over 65. And the “silver generation” has gold to spare. The incomes of middle-class working folk have declined in the past decade, but seniors are sitting on a vast pile of savings. Almost a third of the nation’s household wealth, some ¥450 trillion ($5.8 trillion), is in the hands of those aged 70 and older (see chart). In the West, the elderly pinch pennies, but Japan’s seniors pay extra . . .

Many firms tailor their services to silver shoppers without letting on, explains a marketing specialist .  . . But inside there are chairs for weary shoppers. Signs are in large fonts. Many salespeople are in their 50s and 60s, since elderly customers trust such people more than whippersnappers. The food hall promotes good old-fashioned Japanese noodles more than newfangled foreign muck.

The shelves are lower, so older people can reach them. (Because of wartime food shortages, the elderly are much shorter than their juniors in Japan.) Loyalty cards at Keio award points not according to what you buy, but according to how often you visit. “Seniors have a lot of time on their hands,” the marketer explains.

Marketing to the elderly is tricky. The direct approach—say, calling your product “the soap for the over-70s”—does not work. And traditional advertising fails. “You can’t use TV adverts: they forget them,” groans the 30-something executive. “We show it again and again and again—and they still can’t recall it,” he sighs. Word-of-mouth is the only way.