Japan’s aging society prompts redefinition of the term ‘elderly’
An early advocate of healthy living to stave off aging-related illnesses, Shigeaki Hinohara, a Japanese doctor, saw patients until just months before bidding farewell to this world at the age of 105 on Tuesday. In 1954, Hinohara introduced comprehensive annual physical tests, part of the preventive medical system said to contribute to Japanese people’s longevity.
A fast-aging society, Japan has the highest percentage of senior citizens in the world — more than a quarter of its population is aged 65 or above. Japan had more than 65,000 centenarians last year. Based on United Nations documents, Japan has defined senior citizens as people aged 65 or above for more than five decades. At the current pace of aging, 33 percent of Japan’s population is projected to be aged 65 or above in 2035, with its share in the total population rising to 40 percent in 2060.
Life after retirement — 60 in Japan — is changing in the country. It can be a time for golf and/or swimming for some, but millions of people are clinging to full-time jobs, re-entering the workforce as part-timers, or even starting new businesses.
In 2015, a record 7.3 million people aged 65 or above were part of Japan’s workforce, accounting for 11.4 percent of the total. A survey of senior citizens conducted by Japan’s Cabinet Office showed that nearly 70 percent of the interviewees were willing to work beyond 65.
As people are living a longer, healthier life in some parts of the world, a new definition of “old age” is called for, which should be followed by labor, pension and retirement reforms among other changes.