“Konbini” — a new concept in serving needs of seniors emerging from Japan

b-konbini-a-20151019-870x618Much has been written about how the new millennials are opting to do shopping online. At the other end of the generational spectrum, a trend is developing to move beyond simply convenience into senior care.

In Japan, this concept is called konbini.

In a article in this quarter’s Stanford Social Innovation Review, author Noel Duan writes that in Japan you can find senior citizens gathering for hours at a time, not at a local social club, but at their neighborhood 7-Eleven. In addition to buying ready-made foods, they might be singing karaoke, participating in a calisthenics class, paying their bills, or simply sharing conversation in one of the designated lounge areas.

Counter to the stereotype in the US of big chains as impersonal intruders crowding out local mom and pop shops, Japanese convenience store franchises are trusted as responsive community institutions, aiding not only in the task of daily life but also in local disaster relief.

The compassionate franchise model isn’t unique to Japan. Other Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan are aging rapidly, and this model can serve them well.

Providing accessible services and goods isn’t the only way that konbini is engaging with elderly locals. They also employ senior citizens, an important function as the growing population of citizens over 65 still want to work.

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