Elder Care Practices in Okinawa: Tradition in Transition

By Loretta Brewer.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Western social scientists are keenly aware of the rapid pace of societal change that has occurred over the past century as a result of industrialization and urbanization as well as technological advances in transportation and communication. We are also aware of subsequent changes in family and other interpersonal relationships. Often, however, we remain oblivious to similar changes in other cultures. This paper explores the implications of social change within an Asian culture by focusing on elder care practices. The paper draws on qualitative data collected in September, 2007, in Okinawa, Japan. Data gathered via participant observation and interviews with elders, family caregivers, and health care professionals is used to illustrate the transition that is occurring in traditional elder care practices within a society where population aging has resulted in a dramatic increase in the proportion of elders in relation to younger family members available to provide needed care. A similar process is also occurring in many western societies. This phenomenon presents challenges to government sponsored programs as well as to individuals and families. The recent implementation of a national long-term care insurance program in Japan is likely to hasten this transition in traditional elder care practices.

Keywords: Population Aging, Elder Care Practices, Asian Cultures, Family Caregivers, Qualitative Research

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.117-124. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 552.078KB).

Dr. Loretta Brewer

Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas, USA

Dr. Brewer joined the faculty at Arkansas State University after completing an Interdisciplinary PhD at Michigan State University. Current research interests include elder abuse, health disparities, and family caregiving dynamics, as well as cultural influences on family caregiving practices. Publications include Families that Care: a qualitative study of families engaged in the provision of elder care, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 2002, 39:3, 41-56, and Gender Socialization and the Cultural Construction of Elder Caregivers, Journal of Aging Studies, Nov., 2001. In addition, she has presented papers at a number of conferences including A Qualitative Study of Family Caregiving in the Mississippi Delta Region, at the Southwest Social Science Association annual meeting, New Orleans, LA, 2005, and Health Disparities and Family Caregiving Capacity, presented at International Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH) conference, Atlanta, GA, 2004. In addition, Dr. Brewer has a strong interest in promoting the ethical conduct of social work research, culturally competent practice and the infusion of gerontological content into social work curriculum at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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