The number of Japanese 90 or older stood at 2.06 million as of last week, topping 2 million for the first time, according to the latest government estimate released for Respect for the Aged Day on Monday.

Data gathered by the internal affairs ministry also show that a record 7.7 million people aged 65 or older had a job as of last year, accounting for 11.9 percent of all employed people.

The figure underlines the growing contribution of seniors in the economy as Japan’s working population shrinks.

Of the 7.7 million working seniors, 3.01 million, or 39 percent, were nonregular employees, such as part-timers or temps, a 2.5-fold rise from 1.22 million in 2006, the statistics show.

According to the annual survey, the total number of elderly hit a record 35.14 million this year, accounting for 27.7 percent of the population. “Elderly people” are officially defined by the government as those 65 and above.

That percentage is the highest among the Group of Seven developed countries, followed by Italy at 23 percent, Germany at 21.5 percent and France at 19.7 percent.

By sex, Japan has 15.25 million men 65 or older, accounting for 24.7 percent of all males, while the number of females 65 and above stands at 19.88 million, or 30.6 percent of all women.

While Japan’s population continues to gray and shrink, some experts have called for redefining the term “elderly.”

In January, two academic societies studying issues involving aging — the Japan Geriatrics Society and the Japan Gerontological Society — proposed that the definition be changed to cover people 75 or older, arguing that today’s seniors are physically and mentally much younger than those in the same age category decades ago.

Many seniors apparently believe they are too young to be called “elderly,” according to a recent survey by Rakuten, the online shopping portal.

To see how they view themselves, the Rakuten group surveyed 600 people aged 60 or older, selecting 200 each from the age brackets of 60 to 64, 65 to 69 and 70 and above.

In the second bracket, 72 percent said, “I don’t consider myself an ‘elderly’ person.

In the third bracket, 34 percent felt the same way, according to the survey.

“Recently, there are many lively seniors who enjoy their hobbies and are enthusiastic about their health,” said Rakuten spokeswoman Yuka Asada. “Unlike the stereotypical senior citizen, they’re actively enjoying their second life. Very many of them enjoy traveling.”

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