Care-prevention and emerging ontologies of healthy aging in Japan
Ender Ricart (University of Chicago)
Paper short abstract:
This paper tracks the emergence of a new ontology of aging that has spread through regional government efforts to prevent enrollment in Japan's national Long Term Care insurance, and scientific and academic research into the prevention of care.
Paper long abstract:
The Aging Society Crisis (shōshikōreika shakai mondai) in Japan represents a point of saturation, when the numbers of elderly in-need-of-care exceed the available financial resources and labor-power, leading to economic, societal, and national collapse. The counter-measures implemented by the national government have included efforts to limit the number of elderly enrolled in Japan's national Long Term Care (LTC) insurance, through health-care prevention measures. Beginning with the enactment of Japan's national Long Term Care insurance in 2000, this paper tracks the emergence of a new ontology of aging and old age that has spread through regional government efforts to prevent enrollment in LTC and scientific and academic research into the prevention of care - specifically, as Kaigo-yobo, Locomotive Syndrome Prevention, and Mibyo Naosu. What is of interest both ethnographically and theoretically is the degree of sameness underlying these various preventive approaches, particularly in their mobilization of certain notions of health and the human condition and its relation to idealized social- and natural-living environments. I discuss how these three prevention initiatives mobilizes a human ontology of spontaneous self-emerging energetics. It follows that every person has a predetermined wellspring of energy that, if unhindered by opposing forces, will maximize its energetic potential over the course of time, resulting in "the good death." Sociality and environmental life-worlds have also been refigured, aligning with emerging ontologies of healthy aging and old age in Japan.
Politics of life and death and the practice of caring