人生90年時代 高齢者も社会の「支え手」に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 2, 2012)
Help elderly people support themselves, others
人生90年時代 高齢者も社会の「支え手」に(10月1日付・読売社説)

With many baby boomers turning 65 this year, the number of Japanese aged 65 or older has topped 30 million for the first time, accounting for 24 percent of the population.

Society as a whole must quickly make preparations to cope with the population's ever-accelerating pace of aging.

In 2050, the average life expectancy is projected to be 83 for men and 90 for women, up from 79 and 86, respectively, at present.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently decided on a new outline of measures to cope with the aging society, which took a hard look at the arrival of an era in which more people will live to the age of 90.

The outline's key feature was a call for elderly people, who have been "supported" under the social security system, to become more capable of "supporting" themselves and others if they are willing and able to do so.

Indeed, elderly people today look far more youthful than they once did.

Men aged 65 can expect to live an average of another 19 years, while women likely will live for 24 more years--both about twice as long as people that age shortly after the end of World War II.


Many want to keep working

In physical fitness tests conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the physical strength of elderly people has been improving year after year.

It may be necessary to change conventional thinking that lumps all elderly people under the label of "weak."

Many people in their golden years are willing to work. A Cabinet Office survey found that more than 70 percent of men and women aged 60 or older want to work even after turning 65.

The new outline also set a target of creating "a society that ensures people have the opportunity to work and participate in society throughout their lives."

If elderly people can work and increase their income, consumption and tax revenues will increase. This would not only help rejuvenate the economy but also secure financial sources for social security programs.

To achieve this, more companies will have to employ people aged 70 or older. It is also necessary to provide places where elderly people can volunteer to help with child rearing or nursing care.


Next decade will be crucial

On the other hand, the number of elderly people requiring support from others also will increase. The demand for nursing care and medical care will continue rising sharply until about 2025, when baby boomers turn 75 or older. The coming decade or so will be crucial for determining how society can build a sustainable nursing care system for the elderly.

While the elderly population will increase, people of working age will continue decreasing in step with the declining birthrate. At present, there are about three people of working age to support each elderly person; this figure is forecast to fall to about one 50 years from now.

It is obvious that the current social security system will not be able to withstand such developments.

A national council for social security system reform, scheduled to be established in line with an accord reached among the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, must hold in-depth discussions on how to make the social security system sustainable.

Each and every member of Japanese society needs to consider how they should live a life lasting 90 years, so they can support themselves as much as possible even when they reach an advanced age.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2012)
(2012年10月1日01時14分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-10-03 15:13 | 英字新聞

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