Shutterstock
Now playing
01:22
Life expectancy on the rise
CNN
Now playing
02:13
Why losing weight might protect you from Covid-19
A selection of fruit ready to eat are displayed at a fruit and vegetable shop on April 12, 2016 in Lille, northern France. / AFP / DENIS CHARLET        (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
DENIS CHARLET/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A selection of fruit ready to eat are displayed at a fruit and vegetable shop on April 12, 2016 in Lille, northern France. / AFP / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:27
New diet can save lives and the planet, study says
this is your brain on pain health orig_00001025.jpg
CNN
this is your brain on pain health orig_00001025.jpg
Now playing
01:39
This is your brain on pain
Now playing
01:42
Here's why you can't stop eating pizza, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies
Now playing
01:10
Trouble sleeping? This may be why
CNN
Now playing
02:40
The reality of wine's health benefits
shutterstock
Now playing
01:49
These foods aren't as healthy as you think
Americans are still too fat according to a new study from JAMA. Two in three of Americans are registering as overweight or obese.
Shutterstock
Americans are still too fat according to a new study from JAMA. Two in three of Americans are registering as overweight or obese.
Now playing
01:15
What is obesity?
CNN
Now playing
01:17
Why your BMI matters
LONDON - MAY 16:  In this photo illustration a cigarette is seen burning on May 16, 2007 in London. Businesses and shops are gearing up for the introduction of the smoking ban on July 1 in England after similar bans have been introduced in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  (Photo Illustration by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
Bruno Vincent/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
LONDON - MAY 16: In this photo illustration a cigarette is seen burning on May 16, 2007 in London. Businesses and shops are gearing up for the introduction of the smoking ban on July 1 in England after similar bans have been introduced in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. (Photo Illustration by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:07
What tobacco does to your health (2017)
Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Now playing
01:12
World blood pressure rises (2016)
Woman pointing to area on mammogram x-ray, close-up
Getty Images/File
Woman pointing to area on mammogram x-ray, close-up
Now playing
01:19
Breast cancer: Know the facts
A surgeon sitting in front of screens of a Focal One device performs a robot-assisted prostate tumorectomy using ultrasound imaging on April 10, 2014 at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, center France. Focal One is the first robotic HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound) device dedicated to the focal approach for prostate cancer therapy. According to EDAP TMS SA, a leader in therapeutic ultrasound, it combines the three essential components to efficiently perform a focal treatment: state-of-the-art imaging to localized tumors with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) combined with real-time ultrasound, utmost precision of robotic HIFU treatment focused only on identified targeted cancer areas, and immediate feedback on treatment efficacy utilizing Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound Imaging. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD        (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A surgeon sitting in front of screens of a Focal One device performs a robot-assisted prostate tumorectomy using ultrasound imaging on April 10, 2014 at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, center France. Focal One is the first robotic HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound) device dedicated to the focal approach for prostate cancer therapy. According to EDAP TMS SA, a leader in therapeutic ultrasound, it combines the three essential components to efficiently perform a focal treatment: state-of-the-art imaging to localized tumors with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) combined with real-time ultrasound, utmost precision of robotic HIFU treatment focused only on identified targeted cancer areas, and immediate feedback on treatment efficacy utilizing Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound Imaging. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:21
What is prostate cancer?
Argosy
Now playing
00:53
What is Parkinson's disease?
Now playing
01:38
How Alzheimer's destroys the brain

Story highlights

At Cross Hearts, senior workers work alongside younger employees to take care of elderly residents

They are encouraged to view their work as a second career

(CNN) —  

In an elementary school turned nursing home, Keichi Tasaka jokes with a group of cheerful old women.

At 70, he could be mistaken for a resident, but Tasaka isn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon. Instead, the former tofu-maker is forging a second career as a caregiver to the elderly in Tokyo’s Cross Hearts nursing home.

“I always had an interest in care-giving and pensioners don’t receive much in Japan so I’m really thankful that this opportunity existed here for me,” Tasaka told CNN.

“I’m old too so I can understand what these seniors are going through. I actually feel like I’m hanging out with the residents here as opposed to caring for them”

Keichi Tasaka, 70, has been working at Cross Hearts in Yokohama, Japan, for the past five years.
Emiko Jozuka/CNN
Keichi Tasaka, 70, has been working at Cross Hearts in Yokohama, Japan, for the past five years.

Catering to a ‘super-aged’ nation

With its fast-declining birthrate and growing cohort of old people, Japan is considered a “super-aged” nation, where more than 20% of the population is over 65. By 2020, there will be 13 such countries in the world.

To cope with a growing labor shortage that’s set to hit the care-giving and industrial sectors the hardest, and in the hopes of reinvigorating a stalling economy, the Japanese government has encouraged more seniors and stay-at-home mothers to re-enter the workforce.

In many ways, Tasaka is a trailblazer for this incentive. For the past five years, he’s ferried daycare residents to and from their homes, and helped feed and provided companionship to others.

He lives in one of the facility’s neighboring apartment complexes and is just one of a couple of dozen employees over 65, who work alongside both younger Japanese and foreign staff. In many countries, these jobs would be filled by foreign workers but Japan lacks a concrete immigration policy has resulted in older citizens staying in employment for longer.

Tasaka Keichi jokes with his younger colleagues.
Emiko Jozuka/CNN
Tasaka Keichi jokes with his younger colleagues.

The facility – which has a waiting list of several hundred – sets their official retirement age at 70, but lets people who want to work do so until 80. The common retirement age in Japan is between 60 and 65, but doctors recently proposed raising it to 75.

Despite efforts to encourage more senior citizens to work for longer, 80.5% of companies in Japan still set their official retirement age at 60, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

In 2013, the government passed a law requiring companies to raise the mandatory retirement age to 65. But full compliance isn’t required until 2025.

This has created a situation where many companies rehire senior workers at lower salaries once they pass retirement age, according to Atsushi Seike, an economist at Keio University in Japan.

“There should be more pressure on companies to extend mandatory retirement to 65 as a decline in wages really discourages older workers to continue working,” he said.

Developing second careers

Cross Hearts executive director Seiko Adachi told CNN that many of her more senior charges are motivated through their interaction with younger workers and older residents.

“Growing old is the first step in losing something, whether that be your sibling, your parent, or your role in society … the good thing about elderly carers, is that they really understand how our elderly residents are feeling,” she said.

“It’s also good preventative care for them as if they feel like they have a place to go, that will keep them going.”

Seiko Adachi says she wants senior workers to work on developing their careers.
Emiko Jozuka/CNN
Seiko Adachi says she wants senior workers to work on developing their careers.

According to Adachi, the key to engaging more senior employees is by helping them focus on their care-giving job, not as a part-time wage-filler, but as a second career that they can really develop.

For some, the possibilities appear endless.

“I want to study for another care-giving license and take on a managerial role later on,” Tasaka said with a grin. “I don’t feel limited by my age.”