In Aging Japan, Under 75 Is The New ‘Pre-Old’

Miho Inada
wsj.com
2021-09-25

Sachiko Kobayashi turns 65 next year, but she isn’t eager to be called elderly—not with a job making box lunches, a crafts business and a garden full of pumpkins and radishes.

The good news is that so long as she stays in Nagano, she won’t be elderly next year, or even in 2030. The city, eager to keep its older residents active, has redefined the word so that only those 75 and older qualify.

“I think it’s a natural move, because people in their 60s are much younger than I had imagined before,” Ms. Kobayashi said.

Japan is by far the world’s oldest nation, with more than 29% of the population 65 or older, compared with 17% in the U.S. and 21% in Europe. Efforts to get younger have gone nowhere. The birthrate is still falling and immigration has nearly ground to a halt with Covid-19.
Linguistically, however, Japan is at the forefront of change. Millions of people have learned they no longer are old, but merely “pre-old.”

That is the terminology suggested by both the Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society, which say the 65-to-74 range now should be called “pre-old age.” The government says the idea is worth looking at and has modified its annual White Paper on the Elderly to make clear it isn’t necessarily calling people in their 60s elderly.

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