Author: Maxime Polleri

Japan’s aging population will increase disaster vulnerability

Source(s): The Diplomat


However, there is one social problem that is making disaster prevention increasingly difficult for Japanese society: the aging of its population. In recent years, Japan has become the poster child of the third-age society, with the highest percentage of elderly citizens amidst the countries of the world. The rapid aging of the Japanese population is creating many socioeconomic problems that are affecting pension cost, workforce replacement, and stress on medical infrastructure. Yet, this aging also increases the population’s vulnerability to natural disasters, which refers to the capacity of a community to resist the impacts of a disaster. 


An aging community equally needs more help and support during evacuation procedures, a step that can increase stress levels, while negatively impacting displaced people’s living conditions or their capacity to recover. The difficult conditions of an evacuation center, such as sleeping on cold floors or getting used to a new environment, are especially harsh for the elderly population and subsequent deaths within the evacuation centers of Noto have been reported.


Lastly, the elderly are likely to be less tech-savvy than other segments of the population and thus susceptible to potentially missed early warnings of natural disasters. For instance, cellular broadcast technology is an important part of disaster mitigation in Japanese society. Often, when a natural disaster is about to strike, citizens receive a warning on their smartphone, with clear indications concerning the measures to take. Japan’s Earthquake Early Warning is a good example of a system that provides prompt alerts just as an earthquake starts. These forms of technology provide crucial seconds to take shelter, hereby potentially saving one’s life. Not possessing access to such technologies can impede proper resilience for an elderly population.


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