No generation in the history of mankind is more reviled than that of the baby boomers, who grew up during the age of mass media. Raised on TV and glossy magazines, they connected to a world their parents knew almost nothing about, and with that experience turned from youthful explorers of expanded possibilities into self-centered jerks who plundered and exploited everything that had been created for their benefit. At least, that’s the historical perspective held by subsequent generations who now have to contend with the economic, political and environmental ruin they left behind. But the worst may be yet to come.

In the summer, the health ministry released the results of a survey that claimed 4.62 million Japanese people over the age of 65 suffered from serious cognitive dysfunction, and that if you factored in seniors who had “mild” dementia, meaning they were more than usually forgetful but could fend for themselves, the number exceeded 8 million. The ministry included these milder cases with the serious ones because senility is considered a progressive condition. Once you start on that downward slope you never hike back up. That’s why people with functional dementia are referred to as yobigun, or “reserves.” They are standing by to join the army of the eternally confused.

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