Why in Japan, 75 Should No Longer Be Considered 'Elderly'

Nina Kanno jokes around with her grandmother Mieko Kanno
Nina Kanno jokes around with her grandmother Mieko Kanno at Jodoji temple, Rikuzentakata, Japan, March 11, 2012. Japan's population is ageing. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Japan’s population has aged so much that people between 65 and 75 should no longer be considered elderly, according to scientists.

Researchers at Japan’s Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society believe that labeling anybody in that age bracket as “elderly” is now “anachronistic” and they should be described as “semielderly” instead.

Thanks to progress in medicine and health, life expectancy in Japan has increased, but people are also mentally and physically fitter for longer. The average life expectancy in Japan for a woman is 85 and for a man is 80.

While introducing the research, Yasuyoshi Ouchi, the director of Tokyo’s Toranomon Hospital , said the report was meant “ to change public awareness of elderly people and provide an opportunity to promote their participation in society.”

Segments of the research rely partly on the public opinion. People who have reached their 60s don’t feel old and don’t want to be labeled as such, but younger age groups don’t think 65 is the beginning of the end either.

Professor Hiroshi Yoshida, a specialist in the economics of ageing at Tohoku University, said that he believed the word “elderly” should be reserved for the last decade of someone’s life, reported the South China Morning Post.

The researchers suggest that people aged between 65 and 75 should be called “semielderly,” and people in their 90s referred to as “super elderly.”

The study does have a downside, however. Although the Japanese are among the longest-living people on the planet, longer life expectancy means that Japanese adults are marrying and having children later. This results in lower nationwide birth rates—just 1.41 children per woman—meaning the population is shrinking as well as it is growing older.

Yoshida said that if measures are not taken to counter effect this low birth rate, the last Japanese child could be born by 3011.