We all know how technologically advanced Japan is as a country. The Japanese are more tech-savvy than anyone else in the world. From small electric Itazura coin banks to huge magnetic bullet trains, the country is famous for its technological innovations. As Japan advances in every field, its population is aging rapidly. You must have heard about how Japan is going through an aging population crisis that is affecting its economy in every way.
A bigger number of old people reduces the size of the workforce, thus reducing the productivity of the nation. Money spent on technological innovations and other science-related inventions now have to go to citizen welfare. A significant percentage of the country’s population is aging, and many more are going to join this club. Many economists see the old population as the least productive demographic but with more purchasing power. Japan could efficiently create a market with disruptive innovations catering to the old demographic that could keep the economy running. This area of business is called the “Silver Market” and the products meant for the elderly are called “Silver Goods.” From karaoke boxes to financial institutions, everyone is now after the “Silver Yen.”
Japan is going through an innovation crisis where there is a serious need to better the lives of its aging population. It is said that at least a quarter of the Japanese population has an average age of more than 65 years. This percentage is going to almost double at the beginning of the second half of the 21st century. On top of that, the country’s low birth rate is causing the population to reverse, thus reducing the size of Japan’s economy. In fact, Japan is one of the lowest-performing economies among the developed countries.
After the Meiji Restoration and the Second World War, Japan has become a major economic powerhouse and technology hub. Some people say Japan has gone through a “silent revolution” after the war, but what Japan is facing now is a problem bound power struggle that is unique and tough to get through. Unlike Western countries which bank on an immigrant pool to keep their markets intact from aging or reversing population, Japan is in no mood for lenient immigration reforms.
Japan is making reforms by making work conditions comfortable for women to increase the work-life balance that could possibly raise the nation’s birth rate. It is also ensuring that elderly people get their monetary pensions, health care, and nourishment. However, these measures seem to be not enough for Japan to keep the economy growing. There is a serious need to change the market rules and put elderly people on the priority list.
Let’s be real, how many goods and services catering to old people are available in the market? That’s why Japan is pushing for major technological reforms that could increase the purchasing power and competitiveness of the country as a whole. New companies are creating unique products for old people. Be it gadgets, video games, books, movies, food, robots, etc., Japan is all set to involve the elderly force into consumer action. Let’s take a look at some of such innovative “Silver Products” that are creating a buzz in the business world!
With the aging population comes healthcare issues that are becoming national concerns. For example, dementia and other mental health problems are on the rise among the elderly people. The number of healthcare companies is on a rise these days in Japan. The attractive fields are insurance, medical electronics, and healthcare services. In the last decade, Japan has seen some major changes in its social and family structure. Until recently, the Japanese used to think that caring for the elderly is a family responsibility, but not anymore!
Hundreds of clinics, care centers, and wellness shops are popping up all across Japan and there is a rise in the number of dementia, workout, and stress-related products available in the market.
PARO is one of the therapeutic robots that has entered the healthcare market recently. It is a noise-making baby seal meant for dementia patients to help them reduce their anxiety and to help them recover. This product has entered not only the Japanese market but also the US market. Hundreds of dementia clinics in the two countries use PARO. Orders for PARO have gone up and the company, PARO Robots, is already making millions of dollars in revenue.
A similar product is ROBEAR which can lift elderly people and carry them from one place to another. From the aesthetically pleasing PARO to the weightlifting ROBEAR, these robots that are meant for helping the elderly in their daily lives are called “carebots.” The carebot business is forecasted to grow at a rapid pace over the next few decades. These carebots act as companions to lonesome elderly people who live away from their families.
You might have seen teenagers queuing in front of arcades in shopping malls to play video games. But did you know that the number of old people who are visiting these arcades is exponentially growing day by day? Some arcades have opened their businesses just for the elderly. They have arranged chairs and installed signs to help the elderly have a comfortable gaming experience. Old games such as Pac-Man, Mario Bros., etc. are making a comeback as many old generation gamers are asking for them.
Nintendo has come up with a game called “Brain Age” which has sold approximately 6.7 million copies since its launch. It is a brain training game with puzzles, quizzes, and other mental sharpening exercises to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Another video game company, namely SEGA TOYS, has released a similar game called “Brain Trainer” which also made quite a buzz.
There is a new product namely “Retro Freak,” released by the company CYBER Gadget, which is a gaming console developed for those who want to play classic video games. It is a cartridge compatible device that can play 9 different retro machine games. Be it Famicom, Game Boy, or PC Engine, Retro Freak has got you covered. Although there are no statistics on old age gamers, it is pretty evident that the 500 billion-yen game arcade industry is going to have a significant change in its consumer demographics over the next decade.
Food and entertainment are major revenue-generating sectors of the Japanese economy. We all know Japan is a paradise for food lovers and entertainers. When it comes to food, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and stores that serve delicious food. However, as the Japanese population grows old, there is a need for healthier food options and way of life. Convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson, have introduced bento (lunch box) delivery services to serve the elderly who cannot visit their stores. These home delivery services are available in major cities like Tokyo (東京) and are soon to be available in all the stores across Japan. FamilyMart is leading the way in the “Silver Market” by arranging delivery options for not only food but also medicine and cooking ingredients. It has also opened a karaoke box in addition to one of its stores in Tokyo’s Kamata (蒲田) district.
When it comes to entertainment, “Silver Goods” might refer to albums released by elderly artists. In recent years, the number of old artists has increased quite a lot. You may have heard about the Japanese granny band by the name KBG84 (Japanese only) whose average age is 84 years. Most of the artists in Japan are middle-aged, between 40 to 50 years. You may have heard the PPAP song which has created waves across the world through its simple and funny lyrics and dance moves. It was sung by a Japanese comedian by the name Kosaka Daimaou (古坂大魔王) who is actually 43 years old.
After reading all this, you may have understood by now how Japan’s “Silver Market” is growing with many “Silver Goods” flooding in. The change in demographics is surely going to play a major role in the Japanese economy in the coming years.