Purpose: Concerning the health policies in depopulated areas and the measures regarding elderly persons, the residents must perform activities themselves rather than being directed by the government. For example, residents may assist each other to evacuate during a disaster and also with daily shopping. With the declining population, public finances would be reduced, and therefore, mutual assistance among residents would become essential. In Japan, self-help and mutual assistance have been introduced in governmental policies. However, whether the residents are truly aware of each other’s assistance remains unexamined.
Community involvement will not be activated if mutual assistance is not perceived similar to the perception of public health nurses. Fostering awareness of mutual assistance among residents is necessary to maintain villages in depopulated areas through self-help and mutual assistance. Therefore, we aimed to clarify the awareness of mutual assistance among residents in depopulated areas.
Methods: A semi-structured interview was conducted with the participants (14 elderly men, aged 65 years or above, living in a depopulated area) using an interview guide. The participants were asked the question, “what comes to mind on hearing the phrase ‘mutual assistance’?” The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The perception of mutual assistance was extracted using qualitative inductive methods.
Results: The awareness of mutual assistance in the depopulated areas comprised 150 clauses and consequently, 39 categories were extracted. Mutual assistance was regarded to be based on one’s wellness, as shown by the response “I am the foundation of mutual assistance.” The responses of “caring about others” and “everyday human relationships create mutual assistance” showed the normal state of assistance. Therefore, it was inferred that “everyone is aware of the idea of mutual assistance” and “everyone has self-awareness and makes efforts.”
Discussion: Residents’ perception of mutual assistance was based on oneself and involved daily human relationships. The entire local community was aware of the concept of mutual assistance. Coordination of the entire local community is important for the residents to help one another.