Japan tries to keep the elderly out of hospital

Jan 10, 2019

IN A SUNNY room in a small apartment in the Tokyo satellite town of Kunitachi lies Yasuyuki Ibaraki, eyes closed and breathing laboured. Yukio Miyazaki, his doctor, who visits fortnightly from a local clinic, suspects that he does not have much time left: he has brain damage from a cerebral infarction, a tumour in his digestive system and is unable to swallow or talk. Reiko, his wife, feeds him through a tube to his stomach and clears phlegm from his throat. “He is from a close-knit family and is a quiet man, so I think it is better for him to be here rather than in a hospital,” she says, over green tea and grapes.

Life expectancy in Japan is the highest in the world, at 84. This is good news for its people, but means that an ever-higher share of the population is elderly. Fully 28% of Japanese are older than 65, compared with 15% of Americans and 21% of Germans. More old people, in turn, means higher health-care costs. Last year...

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