Elder Care

Disseminating Best Practices of Eldercare across Asian Societies

Over half of the world's aging population resides in Asia. Over the past decade, Harvard faculty have been actively seeking understanding of, and solutions to, the wide-ranging social challenges associated with the rapid expansion of the aging population in Asia. Through a program initially named Global Initiative on Caregiving for the Elderly, led by Professor Arthur Kleinman, MD and Hongtu Chen, PhD, a network of interested investigators has been formed, and several international conferences were organized to facilitate comparative studies on eldercare challenges and best practices across Asian societies (e.g., South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and India).

Most of the best practice cases have demonstrated success in delivering adequate elderly care by innovatively utilizing existing local resources. Examples include those relying on (a) elderly human resources (e.g., peer counseling for mental health among elders in China, health promotion among elders in Taiwan, elderly volunteer training in Hong Kong), (b) exiting cultural resources (e.g., Church-based long-term care programs in Singapore, temple-based palliative care in China), (c) innovative technological resources (e.g.,  technology-enabled dementia care programs in Japan, Taiwan, and China), and (d) integration of institutional resources (e.g., university-supported rural aging and social development program in South Korea; hospital-based home care for rural elders in Thailand and Vietnam).

Eldercare in Asia
Photo by Sun Yidou for China Daily

Building upon the progress from our prior efforts, we propose to develop a program that will allow systematical evaluation and dissemination of best practices of elderly care across Asian societies. The program will focus on two specific goals. First, to assess, select, and document best practices in Asian countries, we will organize a group of investigators across Harvard schools, led by faculty and students from both Anthropology Department and Global Health and Social Medicine Department, and form partnerships with local collaborators in Asia. Second, we will build technical assistance capability, via an operating office in Asia, to help local policy, service, and business innovators to disseminate and scale up the best practice eldercare models and programs in Asian countries.