04-17-2007 16:44

Japan has become an aged society, with a big percentage of its people over the age of 65. In today's Rediscovering Japan series, we take a closer look at Japan's aged society.

Walking around Japan, it's hard to avoid seeing the elderly. Currently, people over the age of 65 account for more than 20 percent of the Japanese population.

According to the UN, a country counts as an aging society when senior citizens account for more than 7 percent of the population. It's an aged society if over 14 percent are seniors. Given these statistics, Japan became an aged society in 1994.

Most Japanese retire around the age of 55 or 60, and they continue to contribute to society.

Mr. Hosokawa is a good example of someone who retired from their government job and decided to continue working by starting their own company.

Hisashi Hosokawa, CEO of Green Arm Co., said, "Half the people who work in government jobs usually retire in their late 50s. But around that time, they are usually still full of energy and very young at heart. That's why I decided to start my company and continue to work."

For most, retirement signals the start of their second life.

Currently, the average life span for women in Japan is 85 years and 78 years for men.

So, there's a lot of time after retirement.

Horita, chairman of Japan's Elderly Household Research Inst., said, "I think it is really important that retirees can still contribute to society. These people should at least be fulfilled mentally and feel useful in whatever they do."

This retired man used to work at one of Japan's airlines. Because of an interest in landscaping, he decided to try horticulture after retirement.

He even enrolled in landscaping school the year he retired and quickly found a job pursuing his interest.

A landscaper said, "Every month I receive my pension, and I use that money for my basic needs. The money I earn doing landscaping, I use as pocket change. Even though I never feel I earn enough pocket money, I'm very satisfied and happy doing what I enjoy, and that's what's really important."

This retirement home in Yokohama is called ¨Your Happy Life.¨

When people enter, they immediately notice carefully-designed utilities for the retirees, like handlebars and emergency call buttons.

In Japan, the cost of nursing homes is considered very high for most people. For those who choose to live in retirement homes, they usually use their pensions plus some savings to cover the fees. So a majority of senior citizens choose to live the rest of their lives comfortably at home.

Given Japan's aged society, the government is considering whether to reduce standard social welfare benefits, like increasing the age to begin receiving pensions and reducing health insurance coverage.

In tomorrow's Rediscovering Japan series, we take a look at Japan's role in World War Two and see how the Japanese are torn over this aspect of their country's history.


Editor:Liu Fang