A talk with Dr. Arthur Kleinman, the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.
There is wide recognition today of the importance of global aging in societies all over the world. Nowhere is this importance more substantial than in Asia. In 2040 Japan will be the first society ever to have a population in which 40% of people are over 65 years of age. And China, South Korea, and Southeast Asia will not be far behind. This talk will review the challenges of this unprecedented demographic change for families, communities, and whole societies with an emphasis on the great challenge posed by eldercare. Global aging intersects powerfully with mental health. From dementia to depression, from loneliness and isolation to suicide, global mental health problems are a large component of the challenge that aging will bring to us all. Again my focus will be on care. Implementation of global mental health programs offer one of the best examples of practical lay and professional responses to the challenges described in this talk. Indeed I will argue that global aging and mental health in Asia make the issue of caregiving perhaps one of the most vital questions for policy makers, program directors and families in many Asian societies. Not the least of the concerns raised is the growing disparity between traditional Asian values that emphasize filial respect and support and the actual conditions of the elderly in rural and urban Asia today. I will end the talk by suggesting that a focus on aging and mental health leads to a very different understanding of what wellbeing, welfare, security and governance more generally mean.