Gray­ing Ja­pan on look­out for cheaper gifts for cen­te­nar­i­ans

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Ja­pan said Thurs­day it is eye­ing a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to the pricey gift it gives to peo­ple turn­ing 100 each year, in a na­tion fa­mous for its long-liv­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The wel­fare min­istry pointed to the grow­ing cost, as Tokyo wres­tles with one of the world’s big­gest na­tional debts and faces spi­ral­ing so­cial and health ex­penses to look af­ter its le­gions of re­tirees.

“We are re­view­ing it, but we have not made any firm de­ci­sions,” a min­istry of­fi­cial told AFP.

More than half a cen­tury ago, Ja­pan de­cided to celebrate longevity by pre­sent­ing cen­te­nar­i­ans with a sil­ver sake dish that now costs the equiv­a­lent of US$65.

That was fine in the first year of the pro­gram — 1963 — when Tokyo gave just 153 dishes to those who passed the cen­tury mark.

But the num­ber of old folks in Ja­pan has bal­looned since with nearly 30,000 peo­ple el­i­gi­ble for the an­nual gift in 2014, at a cost of 260 mil­lion yen (US$2.1 mil­lion).

And some die be­fore the gifts are handed out, re­quir­ing that they be scrapped.

Lo­cal media said the wel­fare min­istry may pull the plug on gifts from next year, or just send letters to re­cip­i­ents ev­ery Sept. 15, when the coun­try marks “Se­nior’s Day.”

In all, Ja­pan last year had nearly 59,000 peo­ple who were 100 or older, with al­most 90 per­cent of them women.

Ja­panese women boast the world’s long­est life ex­pectancy of 86.83 years, while men on av­er­age live un­til 80.21 years old.

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