The average life expectancy for Japanese people is now over 80, and healthy life expectancy is 75 which is the world’s longest. The portion of the population over 65 is expected to be more than 30% in 2025 causing Japanese society to go through something that humanity has never experienced before. What will the society be like when a third of the population is elderly?
There are many challenges ahead to deal with this new society; many things will have to change including attitudes and values, family relations and living arrangements, diversity of working style and obtaining a philosophy of death and dying. Japan’s rapidly-increasing elderly population faces financial issues such as pensions and medical care; and long term-care is often discussed in a pessimistic tone. This is ironic because the “long life” we finally achieved is treated as a nuisance. We must not make a mistake in deciding society’s priorities.
A society’s peace and prosperity are proven when we can allot the budget for social security. Leading the world in realizing the longevity society is something of which we should be proud, and it is of course our responsibility that all generations support those in later life. Nevertheless, we should prevent an excessive burden from being placed on younger generations. In that sense, building a thriving society where everyone can sincerely celebrate longevity is a challenge for all developed countries.
In Japan, the new social security reform bill prevailed in August 2012, to support the stable and sustainable super-aged society. Reform based on laws is important, of course, but other approaches from different perspectives are needed to change people’s values and awareness. We, ILC-Japan, set the goal to change these values through various activities under the term “Productive Aging”.
At the historical seminar in Salzburg in 1983, Dr. Robert Butler, founder of ILC-USA, disseminated “Productive Aging” to the world. He strongly criticized the ageism which was widespread at the time. It has been 30 years since then, and more than ever before, our society needs the talents and resources of the elderly. Japan is leading the world in longevity and we therefore have a responsibility to contribute to the world to make it a place where we learn from each other and build a vibrant, thriving society.
On February 8 2013, we will be playing host to the ILC Global Alliance Co-President, Baroness Sally Greengross. Baroness Greengross will take part in a roundtable meeting with Japanese experts in Tokyo on the future of Productive Aging in Japan and the world. We hope to disseminate the new Productive Aging model of the 21st century to the world.