Grappling with Japan’s super-aging society

Grappling with Japan’s super-aging society

Hana Hayashi with members of her familyHana Hayashi (second from left) with her mother and grandparents.

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Hana Hayashi (second from left) with her mother and grandparents.

Inspired by her grandparents’ care challenges, Hana Hayashi, SM ’12, SD ’16, is launching a home care clinic for the elderly in Japan—a model she hopes can be used worldwide.

January 4, 2024 — When Hana Hayashi arrived for her first day of orientation at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor Howard Koh asked the crowd of new students two questions that would stick with her for years to come: What are the public health problems of the future, and what can you do to address them?

Hayashi chewed over these questions during her years in graduate school and beyond, but she found her answer nearly 7,000 miles away from the Harvard Chan School campus, in her hometown of Sawara, Japan. It turned out that the challenge had been right under her nose—and her roof—the whole time: How to grapple with a rapidly aging society. Her new work aims to answer that question by building on the Japanese cultural tradition of families supporting and caring for their elders at home.

Japan is the most rapidly aging nation on the planet, where more than one in every 10 people is aged 80 or older. Hayashi has first-hand experience with this demographic shift; each of her four grandparents lived well past their 90th birthday.

This longevity is a blessing, but it comes with challenges. Hayashi’s parents had to live separately for more than a decade to care for their own parents, with Hayashi also stepping up to provide care. This family-based care was driven by love, but also by need; her rural hometown does not have the resources required to handle the rapid graying of its inhabitants.

Hoping to help others in similar situations, Hayashi is launching a home care clinic in her hometown. The clinic, which will be funded through a mixture of insurance and government funds and patient payments, will provide in-home treatment and medical services for elderly patients—24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Hayashi is channeling the best practices she’s offered government, municipalities, and private companies as a public health consultant, and bringing her experience to bear on this new endeavor. She has also launched a company that intends to collect data and generate evidence to inform best practices that can be used by other home care clinics in Japan and around the world.

Her goal is to be a “scholar practitioner,” and Hayashi says her education at Harvard Chan School played a big role in preparing her for this work. She points to her grounding in research at the School and the powerful network of faculty and classmates—but says she’s also leaning heavily into a third benefit.

“I gained confidence,” Hayashi said. “I feel like I can make a difference in the world, which I’m doing right now, I hope. And I feel like this confidence that I gained at Harvard Chan School [helps me make] that difference.”

Jeff Sobotko

Photo: Courtesy of Hana Hayashi

Written by Living Smarter

Living Smarter is a leading well-being lifestyle development striving for excellent user experience by providing quality information about trending supplements on the market.

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