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Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010

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Tips on how Japan can solve its aging problems


By 2015, it is said that one in four Japanese citizens will be 65 or older. Many worry that these elderly people will burden the health and pension system. There just aren't enough young people to prop up the old.

Here are four ideas to save Japan's welfare system:

Pension reform

"Pension reform" is a word we hear a lot in the media lately. Pension reform is when industry comes in and changes the rules because, well, it turns out they made a mistake when they promised people pensions they now cannot afford to pay.

You see, all these cushy pension programs were really just a result of misunderstanding.

You thought you were getting money from your pension? Ha! You should have paid more attention in English class.

No, they never intended to give out pension payments, but rather, overnight stays in pensions. When you reach retirement age, you get free overnight stays at select minshuku and ryokan around the country. This monthly pension can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.

Qualified retirees, meaning those over 100 years old, get unlimited nights in these pensions.

Another part of pension reform should be changing the retirement age to 97. Since most Japanese people seem to be happy continuing to work until their death, this shouldn't be a hard to impose. People think the elderly get senile but that's not really true.

The problem is that the older you get, the further away high school and college gets, so you can't be expected to remember what you learned so long ago. Thus, we'd have a resurgence in education as the elderly go back to high school in their 80s.

The grandchild movement

One sure way to combat the aging population is to boost the number of children born who will eventually pay into the system. Perhaps we need some good, old-fashioned grandparental pressure: parents pushing their children to have children. There is a serious need for a grandchild movement in this country!

Older people as child-care givers for their grandkids would eliminate the need for day-care facilities and leave mothers with ample time to continue their careers. In turn, the children would look after the grandparents so that the pension system wouldn't have to. Hmm, I think we're on to something here . . .

And, just because grandparents are too old to reproduce doesn't mean they can't have a second round of kids of their own. Now is the time to bring in the idea of adoption to this country.

Remember, every child out there who doesn't have parents also doesn't have grandparents. Adopt kids from within Japan and around the world who need the love you can give them.

Or skip the parenting and go straight to grandparenting.

Downloadable immigrants

Japan has long been reluctant to open its doors to immigrants as an avenue to increase the population. If Japan doesn't want to let immigrants into the country, why don't they at least start a program of virtual immigration?

Downloadable immigrants with "virtual citizenship" would contribute a portion of their income in Japanese taxes in exchange for being Japanese citizens. They'd get all the privileges of being a Japanese citizen without actually having to live here!

But perhaps we're missing the point. The elderly are the largest group of consumers in Japan. This is a huge market. The best business you can run today is one that appeals to the elderly.

Fountains of youth

So, how about investing in more fountains of youth? Japan has thousands of fountains, from those in front of nearly every train station to those languishing in abandoned hotels and amusement parks. These could simply and effectively be converted into fountains of youth. Just call in a Shinto priest and have him work some of his magic, and every fountain would have elderly people rushing to reclaim their youth.

As people gradually become younger, we'll have more sales of Gameboys and Wiis. The truth is — this is where the future lies.

Lastly, if all else fails, we can reverse aging the traditional Japanese way: When you turn 60, called kanreki, you go back to being a baby.



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