Toru Saito, Manager for Senior Projects at Dentsu March 26 (Mon.) 7:30
If your parents are elderly, how much do you know about their long life journey?
Where were they born? What was their childhood like? How did they enjoy school? Did they date anyone else before they got married? How was their work life? What were the challenges and joys or bumps and detours in their lives? You probably have heard some of the stories but it would be rare to know all the stories. Unfortunately not many people have opportunities to hear their parents’ life stories when they are still young. However, as children reach middle age, it is natural to ponder their parents’ future and want to know more about their parents’ life journeys.
Writing about one’s own life journey as “My Life’s History” is a recent trend. Major publishing companies as well as newspaper companies also started developing strategies for publishing these life stories. There are many varieties in the style – full-fledged memoirs, simplified versions or professional writers can listen to the stories and write them. Whatever style they choose, they usually have to write the basic stories by themselves which can be a big hurdle for people not used to writing. Also, in terms of cost, it would be more than 1,000,000 yen to self-publish a book which makes it very challenging.
With the above challenges, there has been a new service introduced which makes a magazine about one’s parents at a reasonable price: the “Magazine about parents”.
Briefly a “Magazine about parents” is a magazine which introduces one’s parents. A recent picture of a parent is used on the cover. The title of the magazine is the person’s “name”. Examples of titles include “Biography: All about xxx (name)”, “Interview: Having lived as xxx (name)” or “Featured: Close up on the happiness of xxx (name)” are used. The contents of the magazine include a life timeline, stories that were collected from interviews about life events, hobbies, travel and children. There are also pages in which they talk about their own “happiness” or comments from family members.
The “interview” usually constitutes the largest part. I have also read some of them and truly felt that “everyone has their own history”. As the title indicates, the main character of the magazine is usually in their 70s or 80s. In a long life, every person has their own journey. It was such a valuable experience for me to be able to take a glimpse of a part of their lives, otherwise it would be difficult to hear those stories in spite the fact that I deal with elderly people daily. Everyone has their own unique and interesting life.
The key to this idea is that a person’s long life stories are condensed into 20 pages of A4 size paper and made into a magazine.
I interviewed Mr. Akio Kamiyama, the President of the Kokoromi Co., Ltd. and Mr. Jiro Hayakawa, the Director of the same company who started this unique magazine. Mr. Kamiyama used to work for an investment fund but he saw potential in the senior market of our aging society and decided to start a company in this field.
The first service he provided was the “Tsunagari (Connection) Plus”: the conversation service for the elderly who live by themselves. In this service, a writer makes a weekly phone call to the elderly for their children or grandchildren and emails a report of the conversation to them.
After he started the business, he realized that the stories that the elderly people share with the writers are very interesting. He thinks that maybe the elderly people share what they really think of their life with the writer because they are strangers and there are no constraints to worry about. That could be difficult to do sometimes with family members. It was not at all rare that family members were surprised when they read the reports with their parent’s honest feelings and say “Wow, I never knew my parents had such a life!”
“It occurred to me that because everyone has such interesting stories to share, I wanted to start a new business focusing on that.” (Mr. Kamiyama)
That is how “Magazine about parents“ was first started. We learned from the Connection Plus service that the parent’s generation “wants to talk” and the children/grandchildren’s generation “wants to know about their parents”. In order to connect these generations and have a record, we chose the magazine format.
“When things like personal histories are written, they can be just self-satisfying for some writers but they can be unwelcome to those who receive them. What we thought would be ideal is a communication tool which family and friends would get excited about and enjoy together. In addition it had to be something easy to read and eye-catching. When we thought about those variables, we agreed that magazines are the best option.” (Mr. Akio Kamiyama and Mr. Jiro Hayakawa)
They have completed magazines for 600 people so far and they have many backorders as well. Recently they have more customers who have seen other people’s magazines and became interested. That word of mouth reputation also increased the orders. Orders often come from the children who plan to give them as gifts for 77th and 88th birthdays. In addition, there are more people these days who simply want a record of their elderly parent’s life.
The future plan of Kokoromi is to expand their business to various areas such as being a “Good listening company” utilizing their know-how in communicating with the elderly.
Our “super-aged” society is proceeding and enriching communication between seniors and others will help preventing isolation of the elderly and developing the social capital of our society.
Website for “Magazine about parents”
Toru Saito, Manager for Senior Projects at Dentsu
Born in 1958. His specialty is “super-aged” society and future predictions. He has worked for Seibu Department Stores, Distribution Industry Research Institute (currently Saison Research Institute) and Parco Co., Ltd. before joining Dentsu Inc. and becoming a manager for Senior Projects. He is a social worker and also serves as a board member for the Kichijoji Grand Design Revision Committee. His publications include “Social History of Shopping Malls” (Sairyusha), “Marketing for Super-Aged Society” (Diamond Inc.), “The reason why Kichijoji became ‘the most popular town people want to live in now’ “(Bunshin Publishing) and “Introduction to Developmental Science” (Coauthor, University of Tokyo Press).
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