Longevity is celebrated in many countries. In Japan, the Respect-for-the-Aged-Day (Keiro-no-Hi) falls on every 3rd Monday in September. It is a national holiday making up a three-day weekend. Local governments around Japan hold public ceremonies to hand out special gifts to senior citizens who have reached milestone ages like 77. Due to Japan’s super-aging society however, many local governments are raising the criteria for “elderly” due to limited budget for gifts and celebrations. Shizuoka prefecture, well-known for its many elderly citizens, will raise the celebration age to 80.
In September 2017, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that the total number of centenarians (elderly people aged 100 and up) in Japan reached 67,824. However, not all elders are enjoying life in good health. According to WHO, the global average healthy life expectancy was 63.3 years in 2016. The “healthy life expectancy” is the age for a person to be able to live healthily without medical treatment or help from caregivers. Japan’s corresponding figure was 74.8 years, following Singapore’s 76.2 years.* Considering Japan’s average life expectancy of 83.7 years, elders in Japan live about ten years longer after surpassing their “healthy” years. Improving their quality of life in later years is a pressing issue. *Spain came in 3rd with 73.8 years.
Traditionally, a milestone to be considered “elderly” was age 60. But with the choice to defer receipt of the national pension until age 65-70, many Japanese people in their 60s feel it is too early to retire completely. In a life insurance survey, more than half of the respondents in all age groups (20s-70s) felt that people should start celebrating longevity after the age of 70.