Japan is facing a unique crisis in the world, one that wouldn’t have made sense at any other point in history. Due to technical revolutions in medicine and healthcare, an overly work-obsessed culture, combined with a turbulent century of war and its many ghosts, Japan now faces a future where a significant chunk of the work force is in their later years. “25 percent of its people are aged 65 or over. By 2040, that ratio is estimated to rise to the historically unprecedented level of 36 percent”.
Japan has taken a variety of steps to try and figure out how to solve this problem, from advertisements encouraging family life to robotic exoskeleton suits that will allow the elderly to perform more strenuous labor without the risk of injury. Some even believe that having the elderly take care other elderly in poorer health may be one economical alternative that provides labor without eating up available space for youth.
But therein lies another future problem—there’s not enough young people to care for all the elderly that will be unable to care for themselves sometime in the near future.
Across the pond, the US is having its own dilemmas regarding an aging population. Many attribute some of the economic stagnation to an aging baby boomer population that is unable, or unwilling, to retire or create jobs for the rising youth. In addition to rising inflation, tuition costs, and so many other factors, the current generation are viewing elderly care as an ever more insecure career path. New doctors, stuck with monumental debt from medical school, are forced to seek more profitable careers than geriatrics.
And yet, “substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and prescription drugs, among adults 60 and older is one of the fastest growing health problems facing the country”. In part this may be due to a generation from the 60’s and 70’s that was raised on the revolution of peace, free will, and in that same vein, an exploration and general acceptance of mind-altering substances. Unfortunately, this also means a generation that was exposed, with much enabling, to addictive substances.
It’s important to understand what the future holds for such a large chunk of our population—not only the elderly who are approaching a time in their lives where they may not be able to continue working, but also for the sons, daughters, and overall youth who will be tasked with caring for them.
Elderly care facilities are one option, but for those who face comorbid health issues related to growing older along with a substance addiction, it’s important that they have a place to recover where they can experience home-like care, comfort, and professional support. Recovery centers like New Directions for Women have been growing ever more important in these difficult times, as they provide care that is determined to not only help addicts overcome their immediate dependencies, but to also develop and refine important life skills, such as yoga, meditation, and giving back at a volunteer job, all of which can lead to a better, healthier, and more independent future.