National

Centenarians in Japan hit record 69,785, nearly 90% of them women

Kyodo

The nation’s centenarian population hit a record-high of 69,785 as of September, with women accounting for 88.1 percent of the total, amid medical advances and greater health consciousness, the health ministry said Friday.

The figure rose 2,014 from the previous year, marking the 48th consecutive yearly increase, and represented a nearly sevenfold jump from two decades ago.

“We will continue to make efforts so that (the elderly) can stay healthy for a longer period of time,” said an official at the health ministry.

The tally is an estimate, based on resident registry data, ahead of this year’s Respect for the Aged Day holiday on Monday.

The number of male centenarians stood at 8,331, up 139 from a year earlier — former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who turned 100 in May, is one of them — while female centenarians numbered 61,454, up 1,875. In the year through March next year, up to 32,241 people could reach 100, up 144 from the previous year.

Looking ahead, the centenarian population is projected to rise further, exceeding 100,000 in five years and 170,000 in a decade, according to estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. Life expectancy in Japan was projected at 87.26 years for women and 81.09 years for men in 2017.

Kane Tanaka, 115, from the city of Fukuoka, is the country’s oldest living woman. The oldest man is Masazo Nonaka, a 113-year-old resident of Ashoro in Hokkaido. He was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living man in April.

Tanaka was born on Jan. 2, 1903, the year the Wright brothers flew the world’s first powered airplane, as the seventh child of nine siblings. She married into a family of rice dealers.

She now lives in a nursing home in Fukuoka, where she is adored by the other residents as a mother-figure, and aims to become the world’s oldest person.

Her daily routine includes playing board games after breakfast. The competitive Tanaka hates to lose and continues the game until she wins.

She also loves calligraphy, solving math problems, chocolate, cafe au lait and steamed buns filled with sweet bean jam. She always expresses appreciation to those around her with her pet phrase, “It is all thanks to you all.”

Nonaka, who was born on July 25, 1905, usually watches TV on his bed and indulges in sweets after meals, according to his family. Nonaka’s daughter-in-law, Tokuko, 78, said, “He does things at his own pace. His personality might have been the key to living a long life.”

Although Nonaka has a hearing problem due to his age, when his family asks him whether he is fine he responds by giving the OK sign. He lives in a more than 100-year-old hot spring inn that he used to run.

The number of centenarians in Japan stood at 153 in 1963, when data were first collected. The figure topped the 10,000 mark in 1998, and crossed the 50,000 line in 2012.

According to the latest tally, the largest population of centenarian residents is found in Tokyo, at 5,973, followed by Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures. The ratio of centenarians in the nation’s population overall is 55.08 per 100,000.