Ms. Annika Saarikko, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services of Finland, visited Japan for the first time from 8 to 12 October, and met with her Japanese counterparts to engage in discussions and seek innovative solutions for the aging society. Her busy schedule contained meetings with Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Mr. Takumi Nemoto, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Mr. Hiroshige Seko and Governor of Kanagawa prefecture Mr. Yuji Kuroiwa. She also gave speeches at symposiums and visited to welfare facilities and medical research institutions among other things.
The 34-year-old Minister Saarikko had a clear mission when she stepped foot in Japan. As the fastest aging country in Europe with the share of over 65-year-olds predicted to increase to a third of the total population by 2060, Finland has a lot to learn from Japan, currently the country with the largest aging population in the world. On the other hand, Finland boasts strong health technologies, with 100% digital health records and socioeconomic data since the 1960s that can be globally utilized for research in elderly care and preventive care.
“Globally, there is a need for a fundamental change of paradigm concerning aging societies. Japan and Finland can work together as leading examples on this,” said Minister Saarikko in the keynote speech at the 1st Well Aging Society Summit Asia-Japan hosted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on 9 October. “Together, we can find new ways to deliver innovative and cost effective models of care, improve patient care delivery, and apply digital technology.”
Minister Saarikko also visited the Elderly Care Home Fuyou-en in Kanagawa to see how robotics are used in Japanese facilities. She also stopped by the Kanagawa Neuvola Child Center, to witness how the Finnish innovation “neuvola” is spreading in municipalities across Japan. Courtesy calls to the Japan-Finland Friendship League of Parliamentarians and other places were also fruitful.
Minister Saarikko assumed the Ministerial position in July 2017. She was first offered the position when the current cabinet was formed in May 2015, but since her son was still small she asked for a postponement of two years. She’s balancing work and childrearing together with her lawyer husband.