Respect for the Aged Day: Create a Society in Which Motivated Senior Citizens Can be Active

The average life expectancy for Japanese people is climbing, further enhancing the presence of senior citizens. It is ideal to aim for a society in which healthy, motivated people can show their abilities.

This year, Sept. 18 is Respect for the Aged Day. According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and other organizations, there are 36.23 million people in Japan aged 65 or older, accounting for about 30% of the entire population. The average life expectancy has exceeded 80 years for both men and women, and the number of people aged 100 or over has topped 92,000.

Thanks to improvements in such areas as the living environment and advances in medical technologies, many people aged 65 or older are full of energy and physically strong. Thus, it can be said that it is no longer realistic to define people aged 65 or older as elderly simply due to their age.

In fact, the Law on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons requires companies to make efforts to provide job opportunities until people reach 70. Many firms have employees aged 70 and older.

Under the current circumstances with the continuing decline in the birth rate, the senior generation is a valuable workforce and it has people who pass on skills. It is hoped that companies will create an environment in which senior citizens can work safely in keeping with their physical strength, and support job opportunities for those who are willing and competent.

Some people are starting their own businesses after reaching advanced age. In Sammu, Chiba Prefecture, a pizza place opened by women whose average age is in the late 70s is reportedly very popular. It could also be ideal for senior citizens to use their extensive life experience to play active roles as volunteers.

Motivated senior citizens engaged in activities should also contribute to the revitalization of their local communities. It is hoped that the central and local governments will develop measures which will support the senior generation in taking on various challenges.

The digitization of society is progressing in a wide range of fields. Using the internet is becoming an important issue for the elderly as well.

In recent years, the internet has also been used for administrative procedures, checking disaster information, shopping and communicating with family members and friends. Reservations for COVID-19 vaccinations were also made online in many municipalities.

However, according to a survey conducted by the central government, 60% of people aged 70 or older do not use smartphones or other devices. Many of them apparently do not know how to use such devices.

Many central and local governments are putting effort into classes for the elderly to show them how to use smartphones and other devices. It would also be ideal to set up a system in which people can go at any time to the store where they purchased their devices to get advice on how to use them.

The number of elderly people who live alone is increasing every year. In addition to how to use their smartphones, many of them may have no one to ask about things they do not understand in their daily lives or whom they can ask for help with work around the house. There are also people with illnesses who find it difficult to go out.

It is important not to leave such people behind. Recently, there are services available that let people readily ask for help with difficulties, such as changing light bulbs. It is hoped that the public and private sectors will work together to prevent senior citizens from becoming isolated in society.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2023)