The World is ageing
With the advancements in technology and health and medical sciences, the world’s older population has grown dramatically over the last few decades. Simultaneously, the world’s population has become increasingly urbanised with 54% of the world’s population living in cities (UN, 2015). Moreover, this number will increase to 66% in 2050 when one in four urban residents will be classified as older adults. This indicates that urban ageing is an urgent concern both in the developed world and in developing countries.
Japan and the Super Ageing Population
Japan is experiencing population ageing that is unprecedented in global terms. The proportion of people aged 65+ years in the total population is highest in the world. By 2030, one in every three people will be 65+ years and one in five people 75+ years. Rapid declines in mortality and fertility after World War II accelerated population ageing. Ageing is a salient factor in crucial public policies, such as pensions, health, and long-term care. The Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disaster of March 2011 highlighted current and emerging issues of a “super-ageing” society, especially the need for community-based support systems. This historic catastrophe occurred in an earthquake-prone super-ageing society. Its profound implications go far beyond its immediate impact on the most vulnerable. This earthquake revealed positive aspects of the Super Ageing society: older adults’ wisdom and resilience in surviving and coping, active social and labour participation in old age, and inherent strengths of longer social relationships. However, the disaster also highlighted challenges that Japan is now facing, a key one being addressing population ageing in urban communities where Japanese traditional qualities are fading.
Appropriating Ancient Traditions for a Super Ageing Population
Japan is a country with deeply rooted culture and traditions, many of which have a long history. Shinto belief systems, social and household organisation, island mentality, matsuri and zaibatsu are just a few of the traditions and customs which have historically pervaded all aspects of Japanese life. With the younger Japanese population eschewing many of these traditions in favour of a technology driven urban lifestyle the continued existence and value of these traditions is under threat from an information- technology led, globalised lifestyle.
The Japan studio will propose intergenerational, age friendly communities in the city of Kyoto, including housing, productive and socio-cultural programmes which spatially and tectonically re-interpret and appropriate ancient traditions in the pursuit of culturally and contextually specific architectural interventions.
Kyoto, the imperial centre of Japan for more than 1000 years is a city rich in tradition, historic districts, ancient monuments and gardens and will provide a rich contextual background for thematic investigations related to age friendly communities.