Japan is launching grey-friendly digital devices and diversions for its evolving mature population. A recession-mired economy, Japan has developed a formula for growth: adapt productivity to a market with disposable incomes, anxious for innovative goods and services.
By 2060, more than 40% of the population is expected to be over the age of 65, according to a January 2012 BBC News article. Due to a falling birth rate and near-zero immigration, Japan is undergoing a net population loss. It has the highest life expectancies in the world at 81.25 years.
Japanese smartphone businesses are gearing their product line to this demographic upheaval. To make up ground on iPhone – NTT DoCoMo – a domestic electronic company – has focused on the aging population which finds Apple – and other smartphones – too difficult to learn and operate.
DoCoMo has manufactured express designed phones with voice-recognition software to win over Japan’s fastest-growing market share – the elderly. A special DoCoMo app permits users to utilize voice recognition for their phones, a popular selling point with aging Japanese who find difficulties with keypads.
Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo told Bloomberg Businessweek in late June, 2012: “Growth for a consumer business in the coming decade relies on cultivating the elderly market.” He added, “They tend to be affluent and loose on their purse strings.”
The surplus prosperous elderly is a result of Japan’s seniority-based society which pays excessively high salaries to older workers whose careers conclude with generous pensions.
Taito Corporation, an international gaming company, is keeping up in a predominantly youthful market, shifting its attention to the 55+ demographic. The inventor of Space Invaders opened 130 Hello Taito centers across Japan, in the hopes of capturing the emerging grey society. The gaming arcades feature bright lighting, free blankets, and tea to lure elderly gamers.
Chieko Kofuji, 76, is a big fan of a Hello Taito center in Kamaeri, a suburb of Japan. “I would grow senile if I stayed at home all by myself,” Ms. Kofuji, a widow, told The Australian, in a July, 2012 article. “But I can forget everything while I am here playing games.” The average player spends almost $25.00 USD a day.
Taito spokeswoman Ayako Ikuta told The Australian, “The older customers prefer relatively simple games over racing car or martial arts games.” She added, “You still need to use your hands and your fingers and it’s a good way of keeping mentally active too.”
The grey market is an economy booster throughout a recessionary period. A New York Times article from December, 2009, detailed the rise of the country’s older demographic.
The tourism industry is creating special tour packages, shoring up services for the aged, who have time and money. Elderly people often confirm travel dates in advance and are agreeable to requests for travel date changes.
Food is another flourishing industry in the country’s maturing community. Elderly consumers commonly choose fish over meat. Older Japanese drink more tea than other beverages, a trend benefitting the country’s top tea producers.
Japan’s fastest growing silver lined trade is nursing care and its allied industries. Challenges to entering the emerging field are found in shortages of trained staff and low work satisfaction. Regardless, competition is expected to be fierce with so much money at stake.
Japan is a harbinger to international maturing societies. As a rapidly aging developed society, 40% of the population will turn over 65 by 2060. Mired in recession, the country’s businesses are gearing products and services to an older demographic with time and money. Japanese elders are a silver lining, opening a market for specialized commodities, including: easier smartphones, grey gaming arcades, select travel packages, dietary preferences, and an expansion in health care. Competitive businesses in Japan can capitalize on this unique, aging consumer base.
The sheer number of the elderly will force the economy to forfeit production for younger demographics in favor of aged-down innovations. Japan’s aging society may become a dystopian socio-economic projection for other developed countries, sacrificing profits for a growing silver-lined market.