Yesterday (18 September) was ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ in Japan, a public holiday to honour the senior citizens in the country. There’s certainly a lot of them to respect here, as Government figures released at the weekend show that the number of people aged 65 or over is ½ million more than this time last year bringing the total to over 35 million and accounting for nearly 30% of the population. The ageing population is certainly a problem with which the government and society is struggling to cope.
More than 2 million people are 90 years old or older, and topping the list has to be Nabi Tajima who has just been verified as the world’s oldest living person at the grand old age of 117 years following the sad passing at the weekend of Jamaican, Violet Brown, also 117.
Japanese often credit their advanced years to a healthy diet, so I’m hoping that, having lived here for more than 10 years now, some of that may rub off on me. Although not yet old enough to be included in the statistics, I passed my own milestone earlier this year. Kanreki is a celebration held on a man’s 60th birthday. ‘Kan’ means return and ‘reki’ means “calendar.” At 60, according to the Chinese zodiac, a person has returned to the calendar sign under which they were born. As the colour red in Japan symbolises babies, it is customary for men especially to undergo the ritual humiliation of donning a red hat and jacket on their 60th birthday to celebrate their re-birth.
It seems appropriate therefore to end with these words from TS Eliot:
“The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”
To which I would add ‘…yet’!