Sayaka Kawano writes:

The number of people aged over 65 is increasing in developed countries, especially in Japan. Thanks to medical development, life expectancy is rising and the number of people aged over 80 is also increasing. This happens at such a high speed that we can't catch up to deal with it. This is a serious situation for our generation and the next generation. Many problems are left to be solved quickly. For example, there is the problem of the care for bed-ridden elderly who need full time help to live daily. Studies of elderly people in many countries show a high prevalence of such chronic diseases as stroke, dementia and cancer, and many of these are bed-ridden elderly. Also, in the aftereffect of stroke, many elderly can't move their hands and legs as they would like and the fact is that the lack of care forces elderly people to stay in bed. Dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, affects many elderly people. We must, in brief, do many things to help those people to get good physcial and psychological treatment in a comfortable environment.

What can we do? The best way to deal with bed-ridden elderly is to have the elderly's family take care of the elderly at home. But since many families are living separately and elderly are living alone or with their elderly partners. In addition to that, more and more women go outside and work,it is getting difficult to provide home care today. If other people, for instance, helpers, take care of elderly people, there is a financial burden for their family. So I think the best way for both elderly and their family is to build more facilities with enough services so that the users can feel relaxed, as if they are at home. Furthermore, to give enough care, we need more nurses and helpers. We must pay attention to education of nurses and helpers and so on. If the number of those people increases, home care is possible. Nowadays, scientists and doctors are studying the mechanism of stroke-arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease in order to make the causes of these diseases clearer. This research must be done as soon as possible, because if we find out what causes arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, we will be able to prevent the disease and do something to help those affected to get better.

On the other hand, healthy elderly can work and they have many experiences but they have no oppotunity to make most use of them. So social mechanisms should be changed. Politicians must plan for the future and change the social mechanisms for the support of the elderly and provide means to fund them. Both the elderly's family and society need to cooperate and support elderly people. The important thing for us is to think of these problems as ours, not somebody else's. I have up to now been discussing problems connected to developed countries like Japan, but the same problems are happening in developing countries. Further, I think problems of care for the elderly will become more serious because of the lack of money and capital in developing countries. We must assist developing countries to give information about medicine and so on and fund new programs in the near future.

Throughout the world, especially in Japan, the number of children is going down and the elderly support ratio is decreasing. Since more and more women go to work, and some of these will be working as helpers to the elderly, these people are increasingly obliged to have only one child or two. To solve this problem, politicians must create circumstances for women to work and not worry about their children. A social system for women must be established quickly. The ideal system would be that more and more elderly are recruited to be care givers to children whose mothers have to go out to work. This creates a three-generation cylce of care for elderly. If the elderly are recruited to be care givers, the elderly can find hope for the rest of their life and will be more healthy and energetic. Moreover, children will be able to listen to very precious exreriences and gain many things from the elderly. This leads to a good future for Japan as well as other countries.

In summary, people all over the world are thinking of the problem of the elderly now. We must think of these problems as ours and we will think out new ideas to solve them fundamentally. I think that what we do in Japan could also be adjusted to work in other, developing countries. Also, we Japanese should be willing to help developing countries in the near future. We all get older and someday we will become elderly, so we must change the present situation.

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