In aging Japan, the under 75 are the new “pre-old”

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The good news is that as long as she stays in Nagano, she won’t be old next year, or even in 2030. The city, keen to keep its older residents, has redefined the word so that only 75 and over are eligible. .

“I think it’s a natural decision, because people in their sixties are much younger than I had imagined before,” Ms. Kobayashi said.

Japan is by far the oldest nation in the world, with more than 29% of the population aged 65 or over, compared to 17% in the United States and 21% in Europe. Efforts to rejuvenate have come to naught. The birth rate is still falling and immigration has almost stopped with Covid-19.

Linguistically, however, Japan is at the forefront of change. Millions of people have learned that they are no longer old, but simply “pre-old”.

This is the terminology suggested by the Japanese Society of Gerontology and the Japanese Society of Geriatrics, which say that the 65 to 74 age range should now be called “pre-old age.” Annual White Paper on Seniors to make it clear that it doesn’t necessarily call seniors into their 60s.

Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, used the new definition to reduce the proportion of its population classified as elderly to just 16%, from 30% under the old definition, making it one of the cities the youngest in Japan.

A pre-aged person is Ms. Kobayashi’s husband, Yuichi, 67 years old. He takes things a little easier these days after retiring from his job at the factory. Unlike his wife, he doesn’t get up at 3 a.m. to go to the lunch box store. Yet he has a part-time job in a supermarket and believes he is physically much younger than his grandfather, who died at the age he is now.

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“Grandfather looked like he was around 80 years old when he died,” Kobayashi said.

Nagano part-time farmer Norihiro Aizawa, 38, said he plans to work until he is 70, as do many farmers in Japan. “We’re saying here that a person in their 40s or 50s is still a kid with a runny nose, and people in their 60s and 70s are in their prime,” Aizawa said. One day, his parents grow rice and vegetables full time, but for now, it is his father, in his sixties, who takes care of it.

Japan’s white paper on the elderly this year highlighted studies suggesting that many people between the ages of 65 and 74 do not share traits often associated with the term elderly. Only 6% need the care of others. Half of those 65 to 69 are employed, as are a third of those over 70. Life expectancy in Japan now extends into the late 1980s for women and the early 1980s for men.

Hiromi Rakugi, a gerontologist at Osaka University who participated in the pre-ancient proposal, said data on walking speed suggests that those who are now in their 60s and 60s have, on average, the same condition. of health than those who were ten years old. younger a generation or two ago. He said he hoped to present his ideas to the World Health Organization for wider consideration.

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Among the pre-old set, the fear remains that the redefinition, even if it is only advocated by independent bodies, simply encourages the austerity-conscious finance ministry to slash profits.

Meiko Yamamoto, 74, who works in a medical garment factory, said she agrees that many people stay active at an older age these days, but said greater recognition of this could lead to an unfortunate result. “I suspect the government is likely to delay the supply of pensions,” she said.

As in the United States and other developed countries, Japan has pushed back the age at which retirees can receive full benefits. In April, a revised employment law came into force, telling large employers that they should offer workers a place until the age of 70, down from 65, the retirement age allowed by the government.

The government says this is to protect people’s right to continue working and is not a stealthy way to get everyone to work full time until age 70.

Yamato, a suburb of Tokyo that has also changed its definition, placed a banner on a bridge over the freeway that read: “The city where 70-year-olds are not called old people.” “on the banner, the number 70 was still old, but changed the number to” 70 “a few years ago.

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Yamato Mayor Satoru Ohki, 73, said the signs were not intended to create an excuse for government officials to cut pensions and benefits, and his town did not.

“I wanted to break the framework that confined 60 and 70 years of age so that they could be released,” Mr. Ohki said.

Some believe that it is still ageist to distinguish a particular group of elderly or elderly, even if the age limit is higher.

Isao Oshima, 82, of Nagano would be considered an elderly person even under the revised definitions, or perhaps “terminally ill elderly,” a term currently used for those 75 and over. Mr. Oshima leads a group of volunteers who shoot videos of community festivals and stay up until the early hours to edit the footage.

“Even if someone calls me a senior at the end of my life, I’m like ‘Oh yeah? I don’t care, ”Oshima said.

Dr Rakugi from Osaka University, who is 63, was not about to fight Mr Oshima. He said people of any age can call themselves pre-old if they want to. “’Old’ may be more distant,” he said. “It’s good to do 80 or 90.”

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