Age-Friendly Environment and Community-Based Social Innovation in Japan: A Mixed-Method Study

Gerontologist. 2022 Jan 14;62(1):89-99. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnab121.


Background and objectives: While governments are building age-friendly environments, community-based social innovation (CBSI) provides opportunities for older community residents to interact. Common CBSIs in Japan are in the form of group exercise activities or social-cultural activities, such as reading, writing, poetry, chorus, calligraphy, card game, knitting, planting trees, and cooking. In this study, an age-friendly environment in Japan was assessed quantitatively and qualitatively through the perceptions of community residents and their interaction with the environment.

Research design and methods: A cross-sectional survey of 243 participants and multiple in-depth interviews were carried out. A quantitative study applied the World Health Organization (WHO) framework of 20 age-friendly environmental factors with analysis applying a structural equation model. A qualitative study applied focus group meetings and in-depth interviews to conduct a thematic analysis of Japanese community residents' activities according to the WHO scope of CBSI for healthy aging.

Results: This age-friendly environment in Japan has provided pathways for the older people to sustain their social network, which promotes civic participation and engagement in peer group activities leading to active aging. CBSIs are the factors that lead to an age-friendly environment resulting in a sustainable quality of life.

Discussion and implications: It is important to sustain CBSIs in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic as those are the paths leading to healthy aging communities and quality of older residents' life. The lessons learned about how physical environment and social participation result in healthy, active quality of life for older adults in Japan may be applicable to other contexts around the world.

Keywords: Aging in place; COVID-19; Public health; Social gerontology; Social policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Quality of Life*
  • SARS-CoV-2