Senior citizens should keep feeling desire to take on challenges

Marine adventurer Kenichi Horie has succeeded in crossing the Pacific Ocean on a yacht at the age of 83. Many people must have been encouraged by the way he takes on challenges even in old age.

Horie accomplished the solo voyage from the United States to Japan in 69 days without making any port calls. He said he suffered from bad weather but overcame it by drawing on his skills and his years of experience. “If you live long, you’re blessed with good things in life,” he said after completing the voyage.

Horie first sailed across the Pacific on a yacht when he was 23 years old. The kerosene lamp, radio and compass that he carried with him at that time have now been replaced with an LED light, smartphone and GPS. In one sense, technological innovation may have contributed to this achievement of the world’s oldest person in the field.

Yuichiro Miura, who climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest in 2013 at the age of 80, is also memorable. Miura said that after setting this goal, he stopped his unhealthy lifestyle and improved his physical condition. He continues to take on challenges as much as his physical strength allows, recently serving as a torchbearer for the Tokyo Olympics.

The average life expectancy for both Japanese men and women is over 80. However, the healthy life expectancy — the years during which people can live their daily lives without problems — is 72 for men and 75 for women. It is important to extend the span for which people remain healthy. An increase in the number of active elderly people is the key to revitalizing society.

Some people have come under the spotlight as they continue to steadily engage in their hobbies and social activities.

Masako Wakamiya, referred to as the world’s oldest programmer, was invited to an event organized by Apple Inc. of the United States due to the popularity of the game app that she developed after turning 80. She is currently a member of an expert panel of the Digital Agency.

Wakamiya started using a personal computer just before her retirement from the bank where she worked. She recalled that she felt the desire to connect with people even while looking after her mother.

Haruo Obata, known by the nickname “Super Volunteer,” made headlines four years ago at 78, after he found a missing child. Obata had gone through numerous hardships since his boyhood, and had been helped by people around him. When he was 50, he took up volunteer activities, wishing “to give back to society.”

There may be elderly people who are interested but hesitant to take on challenges. They can first take a step forward and start with what they can do.

According to a white paper on the aging society, 20% of people ages 65 and older do not find their lives worth living. However, people who participate in social activities or use the internet were more likely to feel more fulfillment in life.

In today’s super-aging society, an increase in the number of senior citizens willing to engage with society can also help support the younger generation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 20, 2022)