FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Number of Japanese Aged 100+ Doubles in Five Years

The number of Japanese age 100 and older is expected to surpass 25,000, with 1 million Japanese centenarians by 2050. Japan has a nationwide average of 20 centenarians per 100,000 people, twice the US average.

Currently, the oldest person in Japan, Yone Minagawa, is 112 years old. Putting this in perspective, Yone was born in 1893, the year that Rudolf Diesel patented his diesel engine and Thomas Edison opened the world's first motion picture studio. She was two years old when Marconi invented radio, seven at the turn of the 20th Century, 12 when Einstein introduced his theory of relativity, 15 when Picasso co-founded cubism, 19 when the Titanic sank, 39 when Hitler took power in Germany, 52 when World War II ended, and 76 when Apollo 11 made the first manned moon landing. Her life spanned the entire rise and fall of Soviet communism, as well as the history of flight from the Wright Brothers onward.

Futurists and other specialists will want to study Japan's aging population for two reasons. First, Japan will serve as a policy laboratory for learning how to manage an aging population while its youth population is shrinking. One approach Japan is pursuing is leveraging its robotics expertise to support both the elderly and their caregivers. Surveys in Japan have found that those needing care frequently prefer robotic assistance to the help of humans.

Second, it's clear that Japanese are living longer on average than their counterparts in other countries. Healthcare and public policy researchers will want to learn what factors contribute to this, as well as how to enhance the quality of life and quality of healthcare for the elderly. Even in Japan, age rates vary; Okinawa, for example, has a remarkable centenarian rate of 51 for every 100,000 people.