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The majority of elderly people in Japan are physically in good shape and socially active, according to the fiscal 2001 white paper on aging in society submitted and approved at Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

About three-fourths of citizens aged 65 or older think they do not have physical problems that affect their daily lives, according to the paper compiled by the Cabinet Office.

The elderly comprised 7.3 percent of the total labor force in 2001. About half of them participated in some kind of social activity and about 70 percent were also interested in volunteer work.

For people aged 60 or older, 50.3 percent said they go out almost daily and about 90 percent of those capable of driving said they drive two to three times a week.

The average annual income of elderly people is comparable with the younger generations still working. However, women only earned an average of 1.08 million yen, compared with 3.16 million yen for men.

As of Oct. 1, there were about 22.87 million elderly people in Japan, accounting for 18 percent of the population, up 0.6 percentage point from the previous year.

Of those aged 65 or above, roughly 13.34 million are between the ages of 65 and 74 and 9.53 million are over 75 years old.

The report says the number of elderly likely to need care is expected to increase as the graying of society will rapidly accelerate.

As of 2000, Shimane Prefecture had the highest percentage of people aged 65 and older in the country, with the elderly accounting for 24.8 percent of the population, while Saitama Prefecture had the lowest figure, at 12.8 percent.

The report predicts that elderly people will account for 26 percent of the Japanese population in 2015 and 35.7 percent in 2050.

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