Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Respect for the Aged Day • 敬老会

Yesterday was Respect for the Aged day in Japan and I was invited to participate in the Keirokai (Respect for the Aged Event) at the village gymnasium. The event was interesting enough, but just seeing the people in attendance was for me the most interesting part of the day.

You hear a lot these days about Japan's graying society. Japan's birth rate has continued to drop in recent decades and now is only 1.3 per woman, not nearly enough to support the population. This year, it seems, Japan's population may fall for the first time, two years ahead of estimates.

Aomori, like all rural prefectures, is one of the leaders in the graying society. In 2003, 21.3% of the prefectural population was over 65. Inakadate is no exception. The village has a population of 8863 and 1669 invitations were sent out (to everyone over the age of 70) for yesterday's event. That works out to 18.83% of the population over 70 years old, so Inakadate is no different than the rest of the prefecture.
他の過疎化の進む県と並んで、青森県は高齢化のリーダーの一つです。2003年のデータでは、県の人口の21.3 %が65歳以上でした。その面では田舎館村も例外ではありません。村の総人口は8863人です。その中で、 70歳以上のきのうの敬老会に声を掛けられた人は1669人でした。それを計算すると、田舎館の人口の 18.83%が70歳以上であり、県の人口に対する高齢者の割合とほぼ同じです。

When people mention Japan's graying society, it is almost always in the context of the challenges and difficulties that will produce. Granted the challenges are immense, but there is a positive side to the situation as well. Some of the things I saw:

•Of those invited, there were more than 400 people (24%) in attendance. They nearly filled the gymnasium.
•Inakadate's oldest citizen is 101 years old and 67 people are age 90 or older.
田舎館の最高齢者は101歳であり、そして67 人が90歳以上です。
•Eighty eight years old is a special milestone age for elderly in Japan and this year Inakadate had 36 people celebrate this achievement.
日本では88歳は特別な年であり、今年の田舎館では36 人がその年をめでたく迎えることができました。

Being my age, I tend to think of old age as an undesirable thing, something to avoid. But yesterday's Keirokai was a good lesson for me. It was a big and happy party for everyone. I definitely got the impression that those in attendance were enjoying their advanced age. They might be old, but these people are still productive members of society. They are enjoying their families, their friends and their place in life. I was able to see that through watching those in attendance.
僕の年齢では年を取ることとは、できるだけ避けるべきよくない ことだと思っています。しかし、きのうの敬老会はいいレッスンでした。敬老会は大きくて楽しいパーティーでした。きのうの会を見た限り、参加した人たちは年を重ねたことを楽しんでいるようでした。年を取ってはいるけど、今でも、社会に大いに貢献しています。家族と友だちと過ごすことを楽しんでいるようです。それはきのう出席して分かったことです。

I am glad I went. I learned a lot.

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