Number of centenarians in Japan grows by five times in 20 years

Japan is struggling to manage one of the world's fastest-ageing societies. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: UNSPLASH

TOKYO - The number of centenarians in Japan has risen to a fresh record, underscoring the challenges facing the country as its population rapidly gets older.

There are now 90,526 Japanese citizens aged 100 and above, an increase of 5 per cent from a year earlier and more than five times the number two decades ago, according to a report released on Friday by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

The data was unveiled ahead of Sept 19's Respect for the Aged Day, or Keiro no Hi, a national holiday.

By comparison, the US has 97,914 centenarians, according to the latest census data, despite having a population that is more than 200 million people larger.

Japan is struggling to manage one of the world's fastest-ageing societies and a low birth rate that has strained its pension system.

Helped by healthy diets and an accessible medical system, Japan has the second-highest life expectancy in the world, ranking just behind Hong Kong.

People turning 100 in Japan typically get a silver cup from the Prime Minister.

The rapid increase in the number of centenarians prompted the government to turn to a cheaper version of the metal in 2016.

The holiday's roots stem from Japan's appreciation of the elderly and using their knowledge to benefit the greater good of society.

While there is no traditional way to celebrate it, people will choose to visit their elderly parents or grandparents, or send them gifts.

The oldest person in the country is Fusa Tatsumi, a 115-year-old woman living in Osaka prefecture, the ministry said. BLOOMBERG

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