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Religion in a super-aged society

Tsuyoshi Okamura, M.D., Ph.D.   

Researcher (Dementia and Mental Health)

Although neurology has revealed the pathology of dementia, disease-modifying drugs for dementia are not available. Therefore, the number of people with dementia (PWD) is increasing. Developing dementia-friendly communities through human-rights-based approaches is a global goal.
  The role of religion in the care of PWD has seldom been discussed in Japan. We launched an innovative interdisciplinary project involving geriatric psychiatrists, psychologists, social welfare researchers, religious study researchers, and Buddhist priests. This collaborative research team is investigating the care of older people.
  Below are some of our outputs.
1. We conducted a questionnaire survey among staff of geriatric facilities; 71% of the 260 respondents expressed a need for Buddhist priests to help patients cope with anxiety or distress.
2. We found that a positive attitude toward providing end-of-life care was a protective factor against depersonalization. Depersonalization can be defined as “psychological withdrawal from relationships and the development of a negative, cynical, and callous attitude,” and may lead to elder abuse.
3. We noted that religious beliefs were significantly associated with positive attitudes toward providing end-of-life care.
4. We conducted a nationwide survey of Buddhist temples to investigate Buddhist priests’ monthly visits to believers’ homes, which is an old tradition. We are currently analyzing the results using a geographical imaging system.
5. We are developing carers’ cafés at Buddhist temples with help from Pure Land Sect, which is one of the largest sects in mainstream Buddhism in Japan. By August 2019, 40 temples had opened such cafés.

Figure.1 Religion in a super-aged society

Figure.2 Religion in a super-aged society

Figure.3 Religion in a super-aged society

Figure.4 Religion in a super-aged society

1. Okamura T, Shimmei M, Takase A, Toishiba S, Hayashida K, Yumiyama T, Ogawa Y. A positive attitude towards provision of end-of-life care may protect against burnout: Burnout and religion in a super-aging society. PLoS ONE. 2018; 13(8): e0202277. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202277
2. Toishiba S, Shimmei M, Ogawa Y, Takase A, Hayashida K, Okamura T, Awata S. Factors associated with positive attitudes toward care of dying persons among staff of geriatric care facilities in Japan. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 2019; 19: 364-365.