- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2003

TOKYO (Agence France Presse) — The number of Japanese age 75 and older has topped 10 million for the first time as the graying of their society proceeds apace, Japan’s government announced this week.

As of Oct. 1, 2002, the number was 10.04 million — 3.64 million men and 6.41 million women — up 510,000 from a year earlier, accounting for 7.9 percent of the country’s 127 million people, the government said Tuesday in an annual report.

The government forecast that the figure would increase to 17.67 million in 2020, accounting for 14.2 percent of the population.

Japanese over age 65 account for 18.5 percent of the population or 23.63 million people, an increase of 760,000 people over a year earlier. One in four citizens in Japan will be 65 or older by 2020, according to a government estimate.

Since 1966, Japan has celebrated Sept. 15 as the national holiday called “Keiro no Hi” — Respect for the Aged Day. It was first designated in 1951 for honoring the elderly, but then it was an unofficial observance called “Toshiyori no Hi” — Old People’s Day.

It took Japan 24 years to see the ratio of people over 65 in the overall population double from 7 percent to 14 percent, which happened in 1994, while it is estimated it will take 71 years for the same to happen in the United States (in 2013).

Long known for having the world’s highest average life expectancy, Japan enjoys the distinction of being home to the woman recognized as the world’s oldest living human being. Kamato Hongo celebrated her 115th birthday in September. She was born Sept. 16, 1887.

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