The major supermarket chain Aeon Co. opened a shopping center Wednesday in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, with a wide array of products and services aimed at seniors, in a move reflective of an increasingly graying society with fewer children.

About 5,000 people lined up before the 9 a.m. opening of Aeon Mall Funabashi.

The company's first shopping center of its kind started operations as the ratio of people aged 65 or older continues to rise, with people in the age bracket estimated to comprise more than 30 percent of Japan's total population in about 20 years.

Shohei Murai, executive officer of Aeon, told reporters Wednesday the company will "continue to respond to the needs of seniors who are becoming increasingly active and diversified."

Aeon, which to date has focused on families as its main customer base, aims to grow its business by also attracting seniors, planning to gradually convert its existing stores into facilities friendly to older people.

The new facility's tenants include the first outlet of an optical product store directly run by Aeon, Opt Value. The store can deliver bifocals on the day they are ordered.

Also available at the shopping center are a new brand of products for women in their 40s or older created by a major South Korean cosmetics company and a general clinic with a rich array of special departments.

Some of the senior-friendly features include a slower escalator speed and large signs inside stores. The center comprises a supermarket handling food and other products, and about 160 specialty stores selling clothing and general merchandise in its retail space of about 61,600 sq. meters.