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2005 saw the number of Japanese age 65 and older topped 20 percent of the total population for the first time, according to a government white paper released Friday.

The 65-plus segment of the population as of Oct. 1 came to 25.6 million, up 720,000 from the year before, translating into 20.04 percent of the total population, up 0.54 percentage point.

The document predicts that the senior population will reach 26 percent in 2015, meaning that a “super-aged” society, where one in four people in the country is 65 years old or older, will arrive in less than 10 years.

According to the Cabinet Office, a nation with more than 7 percent of its population 65 years old or older is termed an “aging” society. It becomes an “aged” society when the number exceeds 14 percent.

Japan became an “aged” society at an exceptionally rapid pace, with the elderly population topping 7 percent in 1970 and 14 percent in 1994.

“It is vital to realize a society where the elderly can make use of their abilities and experience, and play more active roles,” the report says.

Workers age 65 and older numbered 5.04 million, accounting for 7.6 percent of the entire workforce, up 0.2 point from the year before, it says.

The paper revises downward the projected growth rate from 11 percent, forecast a year ago, to 9.6 percent, by 2015, because an increasing number of elderly are retiring.

The paper cites owners of small retail shops closing down in the face of competition from large-scale outlets.

But 41.6 percent of nonworking men age 65 to 69 and 25.6 percent of women in the same age bracket were found in a 2004 survey to be hoping to find further work.

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