Thinking Citizen Blog — The US vs Japan (Keiri No Hi)
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Ageism: The US vs Japan (Keiri No Hi)
The Japanese have a national holiday honoring the elderly. The US does not. Should we have one? Today, aging is on my mind as my mother turned 99 yesterday. And I just happened to run across an article in Harvard Magazine this week on ageism in the US by Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale. But how ageist can the US really be as the elderly share of US federal spending rises every year and is expected to exceed 50% of the total in the next decade? Does the “follow the money” principle apply? Is it the children or the elderly that are getting the short end of the stick? And might this be related to the size of their respective pocket books? or their ability to vote? Today, a few random notes on the elderly. First some excerpts from the Harvard magazine article. Then some notes on the shrinking diameter of the silver saki cups given to centenarians in Japan. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
SOMETHING TO ENJOY VERSUS SOMETHING TO RESENT
1. “The Japanese treated old age as something to enjoy, a fact of being alive, rather than something to fear or resent.”
2. “In the US, it was a different cultural picture…..it was everywhere: the billboards for “age-defying” skin treatments, late night ads for local plastic surgeons going on about wrinkles as if they were generals describing hostile enemy forces, the infantilizing greetings older people endured in restaurants and movie theaters. Everywhere I looked, in TV shows, in fairy tales, and online, old age was treated as though it meant forgetfulness, weakness, and decline.” Hmmm…
3. “In Japan, it became clear to me that the culture we’re in impacts how we age. Take menopause, for instance. I learned that Japanese culture doesn’t typically make a lot of fuss around it, treating it as a natural part of aging, rather than as fodder for those Western stereotypes of female irritability and sexual obsolescence. And the result of the Japanese being less likely to stigmatize this natural aspect of aging than their peers in North America? Older Japanese women are much less likely to experience hot flashes, as well as other symptoms of menopause, than women in the US and Canada.”
NB: And older Japanese men, who are treated, culturally, “like rock stars in their country,” according to the anthropologist who led this study were found to have higher testosterone levels than their European counterparts. This suggests that your libido ages differently depending on the way your culture perceives and treats aging.”
FINDINGS OF HER STUDIES, THE DREADED ALZHEIMER GENE, JUST TEN MINUTES (OR SO)
1. “In study after study I conducted, I found that older people with more positive perceptions of aging performed better physically and cognitivily than those with more negative perceptions; they were more likely to recover from severe disability, they remembered better, they walked faster, and they even lived longer.”
2. “I was also able to show that many of the cognitive and physiological challenges we think of as linked to growing old — like hearing loss and cardiovascular disease — are also the products of age beliefs absorbed from our social surroundings. I found that age beliefs can even act as a buffer against developing dementia in people who carry the dreaded Alzheimer’s gene, AOPO e34.”
3. “In my Yale lab, I have been able to improve people’s memory performance, gait, balance, speed, and even will to live by activating positive age stereotypes for just 10 minutes or so.”
NB: “While analyzing data from my study about the lives and outlooks of the inhabitants of the small town of Oxford, Ohio, I found out that the single most important factor in determining the longevity of these inhabitants — more important than gender, income, social background, loneliness or functional health — was how people thought about and approached the idea of old age. Age beliefs, it turns out, can steal or add nearly eight years to your life. In other words, these beliefs don’t just live in our heads., For better or worse, those mental images that are the product of our cultural diet, whether it’s the shows we watch, the things we read, or the jokes we laugh at, become scripts we end up acting out.”
CUTTING THE DIAMETER OF THE SILVER CUP GIVEN TO 100 YEAR OLDS IN JAPAN
1. “The cups are presented on September 15th, designated Respect for the Aged Day, to people who have turned 100 in the past year.” (second link below, 2009)
2. “We realized there’s not such a big difference in appearance if we cut the diameter from 10.5 cm to 9 cm (4.13 to 3.54 inches,” an official at the Health Ministry said, “We also have to think about how to continue to do this for an increasing number of people on a limited budget.”
3. “Last year 19,769 people reached triple figures in the world’s most rapidly aging country, compared with only 153 in 1963, the year when the cups were first presented.”
NB: “The Japanese are the world’s longest-lived people, a phenomenon experts have attributed to a range of factors, including diet and widely available health care. There are 36, 436 people aged over 100 in a population of 127.8 million.” That compares to 97,000 in the US in a population of 329 million by my quick search but apparently the counting of centenarians is a tricky business. Many go “missing.” (see fourth link below)
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
Two special attachments below:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.