Members of the aging program team from JCIE/Japan and JCIE/USA traveled to South Korea for a series of site visits and meetings organized by Dr. Donghee Han, director of the Research Institute of Science for the Better Living of the Elderly (RISBLE). Dr. Han serves as a member of the international advisory committee for the Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (HAPI), organized by JCIE as part of our work on the Asian Health and Wellness Initiative (AHWIN).
Through a series of meetings in Busan and the rural province of Hadong, the team learned how the rapid declining birthrate and aging population in South Korea has become a social issue of the highest priority, and witnessed how the government, welfare facilities, and civic groups are actively addressing this issue.
Busan is the country’s second-largest city and by 2047, half population is expected to be 65 or older. The team met with representatives from the National Health Insurance Service (NIHS) Busan and Gyeongnam Ulsan Regional Headquarters, the Busan Metropolitan Government and visited nongovernmental groups working to deliver programs and services to seniors, including the Gangseogu Community Welfare Center, which is operated by the YWCA, and Dr. Han’s institute, RISIBLE, which carries out research and advocacy for active aging and care for older adults, as well as training programs for community care providers.
The team next traveled to Hadong Province, located to the west of Busan—an area that faces serious population decline as the younger generation is moving out to the cities in search of jobs. The team met with an innovative social business, Nolluwa Coop, that is working to revitalize the local community through a range of intergenerational activities and initiatives; a community healthcare center where they observed a session for local seniors run by RISIBLE’s trained staff; and the local Dementia Care Center.
JCIE’s aging program hopes to further engage South Korea in future efforts to share best practices and lessons learned with others in Asia and worldwide who are facing similar challenges.