Successful Ageing. Japan vs. the West

The term “successful aging” appeared for the first time 60 years ago and the concept of successful aging has been evolving ever since.

One key component is high quality of life (QoL). The ultimate endpoint of QoL is considered to be subjective well-being as assessed by the degree of happiness or life satisfaction. Interestingly, QoL in Western counties has never included productivity, i.e. the contribution by older people to society, including paid and unpaid labor as well as volunteer activities. Conceivably, this reflects the Western perception and appreciation of labor and work. The concept of productive aging has thus never been integrated into QoL in Western countries.
The situation is different in Japan, where the concept of “Ikigai” – “worth living” or “purposeful life” – is prevalent. Ikigai differs from QoL in that it includes a productivity aspect, since contributing to society, including by paid labor, is regarded as having a positive effect on the feeling of Ikigai.

Hiroshi Shibata, MD, PhD., is the founder and a professor emeritus of the Gerontology Program at Oberlin University Graduate School. On March 17th 2011, he will deliver an overview and evaluation of the concepts of successful aging in Japan and the West and introduces a holistic version that comprises longevity, high QoL as well as productivity. This holistic concept of successful aging is very close to that of Ikigai and can be seen as the key to becoming a life-long active “Supa Rojin” (Super Elder) and by consequence to “a successful aging society”.

The lecture will be given in English. Admission is free, but please register with: or Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
Jochi Kioizaka Bld. 2F, 7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0094
Tel: 03 – 3222 5198, Fax: 03 3222 5420