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A silver-lining for graying Japan

10 1 0

Sept. 18 is Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. When the half-century-old national holiday first started, senior citizens 65 or older were a mere 6 percent of Japan’s total population. Fast forward to today and approximately one out of four Japanese citizens fall into this demographic segment. By 2060, a startling 40 percent of Japanese citizens will be afforded respect and put atop a pedestal on the third Monday of every September. By then, we might as well designate a Respect for the Young Day, as young Japanese will be such a rare commodity. It is truly uncharted territory for any country to experience such a sea change in broad, societal demographics.

The notion of recognizing our elderly for their contributions is indeed a noble one. After all, we were all children at one point in our lives and we were nurtured, loved and protected by our parents and grandparents. We owe our elderly a great debt of gratitude. However, the demographic strains imposed on our broader society, due to caring for the elderly, is no longer a simple matter of generational obligation. The problems are multifaceted: A snowballing deficit due to funding social welfare for seniors, a severe shortage of nursing and medical professionals, growing physical and emotional burdens imposed on our caregivers, a shrinking younger population, a tightening labor market, increased traffic accidents involving senile drivers …the list of daunting challenges goes on and on for a graying Japan. Who can blame our younger generations for feeling they got the “short end of the stick?”

In fact, “rōgai,” literally meaning troubles caused by........

© The Japan Times