, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 483-484
Date: 24 Mar 2012

From the Editors’ Desk: Growing Old in America: Lessons From Our Japanese Obaachan

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All developed nations face the challenges brought on by an aging population coupled with shrinking health care resources. In Japan, where I have been living for the past 8 months as a Fulbright research scholar, the population aged 65 years and older now stands at 23%, the highest proportion of any nation in the world. By 2050, this figure is expected to rise to 40%; an astounding statistic given that as recently as 1990 only 12% of the Japanese population was over 65 years of age.

The rapid growth of the older population in Japan is due in part to a low birth rate (the second lowest in the world), but also to tremendous gains in life expectancy. For the past 25 years, Japan has ranked first in female life expectancy at birth (86 years); and 83% of Japanese women 65 years and older can expect to live to age 80 compared to 70% in the U.S. In addition, by many measures, the Japanese are not only living longer, but living better than their peers in other developed nations. Healthy life exp ...