Japan beginning to embrace the 100-year life

Senior citizens following moves made by humanoid robot Pepper during an exercise routine at Shin-tomi nursing home in Tokyo. The phrase hyakunen jinsei (100-year life) has bustled into Japan's corporate vocabulary; in some cases, such as manufacturin
Senior citizens following moves made by humanoid robot Pepper during an exercise routine at Shin-tomi nursing home in Tokyo. The phrase hyakunen jinsei (100-year life) has bustled into Japan's corporate vocabulary; in some cases, such as manufacturing, it is driving new technology investment in robotics and exoskeleton suits for older workers.PHOTO: REUTERS

Like grandpa finally admitting he needs bifocals, it has adopted idea as overarching policy directive

When The 100-Year Life first appeared in mid-2016, the book about longevity and societal change sold only modestly in the West. Some took it as an inspiring road map, some as a warning, some as a niche-interest read for human resource departments or pension specialists.

But when the translated version was published in Japan a few months later, it hit the world's most aged nation like a jolt of electricity. To Japan, the book's central thesis - that individuals, institutions, government, finances and infrastructure need urgent preparation for a time when millions can reasonably expect to live for a century - touched the rawest of nerves. It became a huge bestseller, transforming the public debate and crystallising what had been a murky discussion of demography-themed hopes and fears.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'Japan beginning to embrace the 100-year life'. Print Edition | Subscribe