Aging Japan Sees Decline in Food Intake as Elderly Population Grows

by Ella

TOKYO – Yoshizumi, an 83-year-old resident of Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, has had a lifelong routine of preparing healthy meals for her husband. However, when her husband broke his leg and had to be hospitalized, she found herself dining alone. This change, combined with recent scorching heat, has disrupted her meal planning, leading her to rely on ready-to-eat retort pouch foods, pre-cut packaged vegetables, and health-conscious bento lunches.

Yoshizumi represents a growing demographic in Japan, the elderly, whose choices and habits are reshaping the country’s culinary landscape as it grapples with an increasingly aging population. The demand for nutritious single-serving meals is rising, driven by a surge in one-person households and a decrease in overall energy intake. This trend is particularly pronounced in rural areas, where access to grocery stores is limited, prompting the emergence of mobile supermarket services and other meal solutions.


Japan recently reached a demographic milestone with the number of people aged 80 and over surpassing 10% of the total population, and those aged 65 and older now accounting for 29.1%. Meanwhile, the average per capita energy intake in Japan has decreased slightly, and if current trends continue, it is projected to drop to 1,648 calories per day by 2050.


This decline in food consumption has led more people to opt for processed foods with smaller servings that do not sacrifice nutrition. With the population aging and marriage rates declining, single-person households are expected to make up over 30% of all food expenditures by 2035.


Businesses in Japan are adapting to this changing landscape by offering personalized and customized food and beverage solutions to cater to the needs of older, single consumers. Retailer Aeon, for example, has developed a range of chilled prepared meals suitable for single-person households.


Domino’s Japan introduced a meal set designed for one person, which has proven to be a success with more than 2 million orders placed. Even traditional family-style foods like pizza are downsizing to accommodate single consumers.

Despite these adaptations, there are concerns about the physical and psychological well-being of elderly individuals who are increasingly dining alone. Social isolation and loneliness among the elderly have been linked to a range of health issues, including poor nutrition, cardiovascular disease, reduced cognition, poor mental health, and Alzheimer’s disease. Efforts are being made to encourage elderly individuals to share their meals with others, both in person and through digital communication platforms, to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.

As Japan’s population continues to age, the country’s culinary landscape is likely to undergo further transformations, with an increasing focus on providing convenient and nutritious options for older, single consumers.



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