Japan is considered as one of the healthiest societies on the planet. Japanese people, particularly women, have the longest life expectancy of any culture. It's been said that Japanese people are far less likely to spend their final years of life in a nursing home. Normally, they don't get fat and are indeed very active even in their old ages. And, as a matter of fact, Japan's population growth rate is negative and population's graying is accelerating. Almost one fourth of the Japanese population is 65 or older.
Nation's daily, The Japan Times reported that the number of centenarians in Japan is expected to reach 40,399, later this month breaking the 40,000 threshold for the first time. The annual survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare ahead of the Respect-for-the-Aged Day on September 21, showed that the numbers of both male and female centenarians are increasing to record highs. Interestingly, women constitute 86.5 percent of the total centenarians.
There are rising concerns regarding the challenges posed by the aging population in Japan. However, what impresses me immensely is the fact that how this population is living its life. Japan's the official retirement age remains 60, however, many elderly Japanese feel that they are still healthy enough to keep working and they enjoy their jobs. They are so healthy and enthusiastic. As a fact, about 70% of men and 40% of women keep working beyond the retirement age. So what's the secret behind this longevity?
The most important ingredients for longer contemporary life spans are diet (balanced nutrition) and an optimistic outlook on life. The elderly Japanese remain independent (and many live alone or only with their spouse) but they keep themselves socially active. Dr. Hinohara Shigeaki, a graduate from the Medical School of Kyoto Imperial University in 1937, advises, "The human body contains about 36,000 different genes, and there are many genes people do not take advantage of. We can use the potential of some of those genes to do things we have never tried before—music, painting, sports, whatever. It does not matter if there is no financial reward. Enjoying new experiences and staying active in body and mind keeps elderly people healthy and happy".
*Photos courtesy: Niraj Prakash Joshi, Hiroshima University.