Planning for Aging Societies in the US and Japan: a study of senescence, demographic decline, and climate resilience

This project, a collaboration between Professor Brent D. Ryan of MIT and Professor Takefumi Kurose of Kyushu University and Professor Ken-Ichi Yabuki of Yokohama University, will study the intersection of demographic decline and physical abandonment and potential for purposeful planning policies to address these issues, using the cases of Southwestern Japanese cities and Midwestern U.S. cities. Both of these areas have been subject to deindustrialization for several decades, but the rapid aging and demographic slowdown of Japan and, increasingly, the United States has created additional challenges for planning policymakers. Japan is currently proposing “smart shrinkage”, or spatial contraction of cities subject to demographic decline, but vulnerable low-income senior populations are finding relocation difficult. In the US, laissez-faire planning policies have similarly left many seniors in vulnerable, isolated conditions, a state exacerbated by the pandemic.

Through semi-structured interviews, site analysis, and data collection, the proposed collaboration will analyze challenges to smart shrinkage in Japan, as well as analyze relevance of Japanese shrinkage policies to US cities, with the goal of identifying best practice case studies. The collaboration will bring diversity in regional perspectives within East Asia and international perspective from the US. Through this collaboration and through additional collaboration with local stakeholders in SW Japan and the American Midwest, the study will identify policy and development successes, understand barriers and challenges, and propose resolutions to this critical and growing social, economic, and physical challenge in North America and East Asia. The study will commence with field visits and a proposed practicum in Spring 2024.