Accepted Paper:

A consideration on various means to pursue the well-being of older adults in a Japanese depopulated community: a case study of the 2004 earthquake stricken area in Niigata Prefecture's Chuetsu region  


Yoko Taniguchi

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the particular case of the depopulated and aging community which was stricken by the magnitude 7 earthquake in 2004. Analyzing the older adults' narratives, I will discuss the way in which they create various activities for pursuit of well-being to continue living in the community.

Paper long abstract:

The 2004 earthquake that struck the community located in a mountainous area hit by heavy snowfall as winter arrives, accelerated depopulation and aging, although it had been already faced gradual depopulation since the 1920s. All the local residents had no choice but to evacuate until its function was restored, owing to the earthquake that caused severe damage on the life foundation.

During the evacuation, survivors had to decide whether to return to their home community or move out from there. Quite a few young survivors chose to move out after the earthquake to search for convenience in commuting. On the other hand, many older survivors chose to return to their home community to restart their lives alone or with spouse. They are those who spent most of their lives in this community with family and retired from work or role as caregiver. Their decision might be made to rebuild a sense of belonging to the community and pursue well-being in accordance with their social capital and living condition.

In order to track how they decide whether to return or move out, I have conducted fieldwork for the last five years to examine which factor they considered the most important for pursuit of well-being in the daily life after disaster. On the basis of my research, this paper will explore the way in which older adults try to reconnect a relationship with neighborhood and recreate a sense of belonging to their community by various activities, as an example of "age-friendly community" that is in the process of recovery.

Panel P027
Considering ideas and practices to create "age-friendly communities" (NME/Commission on Aging and the Aged panel)