Important to Show Ways to Stay Healthy for Invigorating Lives

It is now the era of 100-year life spans. Living well into old age is a matter of concern not only for the individual but also for family members and society. It is ideal to live an active life by reacquiring the healthy habits that had been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The period of time during which people can lead their daily lives without problems is called healthy life expectancy. As of 2019, it was 72.68 years for men and 75.38 years for women. With the average life expectancy being 81.41 years for men and 87.45 years for women, the difference between the healthy life expectancy and the life expectancy indicates the period during which a person is bedridden or in need of care.

As society ages in Japan, the challenge is to shorten this period as much as possible. If people can stay healthy for a long time, they will be able to have something to live for, and the financial burden of medical care and nursing care can also be reduced.

Energetic senior citizens can also be potential human resources who can contribute to community events and through volunteer activities.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry compiles a health promotion plan about every 10 years called Health Japan 21, which sets goals to extend healthy life expectancy and calls for healthful diets, exercise and measures to prevent lifestyle-related diseases.

The pillar of the plan’s third term, which will start from next fiscal year, calls for getting enough sleep. The ministry’s guidelines for healthy sleep provide such tips as doing moderate exercise to induce a good night’s sleep and eating a proper breakfast to fully wake up.

Regarding diet, the third edition focuses on reducing salt intake from the current average of about 10 grams per day to less than 7 grams. In some regions, there are already campaigns to certify restaurants and other establishments that support health promotion to encourage them to offer low-sodium menus.

It is hoped that these examples will serve as a reference for further health promotion efforts that are suited to the actual conditions in each region. Ideally, not only the central and local governments, but also enterprises will hold more events at which senior citizens can have fun while engaging in physical activity.

Making connections with other people is also essential to maintaining good health.

Oita Prefecture, which ranked first for men and fourth for women in terms of healthy life expectancy in 2019, provided more community activities that allow the elderly to casually drop by, increasing their participation rates. The senior citizens are also said to be enjoying the exercises designed to stave off nursing care.

What is concerning is the impact of the pandemic. The average life expectancy in 2021 fell below the previous year’s level for the first time in 10 years. The increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is believed to be a factor.

The pandemic may be having a negative impact on healthy life expectancy as well. Many elderly people have less physical strength and reduced mental energy, as they refrained from going out. What will be important now is how to restore healthy habits while paying attention to measures to prevent coronavirus infections.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 11, 2023)