Doing Good Great
Thirteen Asian Heroes and Their Causes

Chapter 4: Riding the Silver Tsunami

Country: Japan
Organisation: Social Welfare Corporation Shinkou Fukushikai
Cause: Elderly

The world is facing an aging crisis, but no country is aging faster than Japan.1 With more than 30 percent of its population above 65, it is literally the oldest country in the world. The land of the rising sun is facing one of its greatest challenges—the unprecedented needs of its sunset population.

Enter Masue Katayama, champion for the elderly. Over the past three decades, she has been serving the nursing needs of Japan’s elderly. In the early 1980s, there was a sharp dichotomy in the nursing service offerings for the elderly: either bare basic public nursing homes, or extravagant and luxurious elderly homes. There was no middle ground. Masue2 spotted this gap and began building comfortable yet affordable nursing home options for the middle-class elderly.

Her efforts have changed Japan’s nursing home landscape by providing new eldercare services to meet a growing need. The establishments she builds feel more like homes than eldercare institutions. Her life’s work centers on creating spaces where the elderly can live with dignity and enjoy the last chapter of their lives peacefully.

Brief facts



Born in Osaka to Japanese parents, Yoshifumi and Masae, and grew up during the 2nd World War


Started volunteering with orphans in post-war Japan 


Founded a nursery school


Converted 15 unused bachelor dormitories into a nursing home


Adopted a quality assessment tool and attained ISO 9001 certification for her nursing homes  


Sold the 16 homes to Benessee Corporation


Set up Shinkou Fukushikai to reverse negative opinions of nursing homes


Expanded operations totaling 39 elderly care centers by 2015




Kanagawa Business Audition Special Prize


Ashoka Fellow


Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 

Funai Soken Great Company Grand Prize


End Notes

  1. Bloomberg, “Most Rapidly Aging: Countries,” com/visual-data/best-and-worst//most-rapidly-aging-countries.
  1. Masue Katayama is more widely known by her first name, hence her request that the authors use “Masue” throughout the chapter.