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Health maintenance of Japanese rural small enterprise shopkeepers

Yuki Ohashi (Rakuwakai Otowa Rehabilitation Hospital, Kyoto, Japan)
Sanae Sugawara (Department of Regional Design, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Tohoku Gakuin University, Sendai, Japan)
Koko Muraoka (Department of Adult Health Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan)
Akiko Ozaki (Department of Gerontological and Home Healthcare Nursing, Division of Health Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tohoku, Sendai, Japan)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 25 September 2019

Issue publication date: 21 October 2019




Though shopkeepers in small enterprises (SSEs) are pioneers in rethinking retirement, working ages and the lifestyles of an aging society, some pertinent health issues remain unexplored. Using narratives of shopkeepers in small, rural enterprises, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the ways of thinking about health maintenance.


This study employed an ethnographic approach. In total, 20 shopkeepers and residents in a rural shopping street in Tohoku, in northeast Japan, were interviewed between June 2016 and May 2017. These interviews were analysed inductively.


The ways shopkeepers think about health maintenance are expressed through an interaction with their personal history. Shopkeepers and customers used narratives to arrive at novel methods to re-think health maintenance. Through data analysis, the cultural theme of maintaining vitality through long-lasting self-struggle supported by cooperation and familiar membership was identified. This cultural theme was related to three sub-themes: struggle stimulated by flexibility and responsibility; cooperation by devoting personal capital; and compensation through family support.

Practical implications

There is a growing focus on the important role that SSEs play in rural health. The results of this study will enable rural nurses to approach and develop health via communal interaction. In addition, the support of the family through cooperation at home should be enhanced.


There exists the potential for shopkeepers to develop a care strategy for small enterprise-related work. This strategy could enhance active ageing and promote a sustainable healthy life.



The authors declare that no conflict of interest exists. The authors would like to give special thanks to the informants who shared their histories and experiences.


Ohashi, Y., Sugawara, S., Muraoka, K. and Ozaki, A. (2019), "Health maintenance of Japanese rural small enterprise shopkeepers", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 110-119.



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