Japanese society stands on the cusp of change. Starting from this year, large numbers of the postwar baby-boom generation will reach retirement age -- the so-called "2007 problem." The country's over-65 population already stands at 25.6 million, more than 20 percent of the total, and this percentage will continue to expand. The aging of society is not, of course, something affecting only Japan. According to the United Nations, the global population of people over 60 -- today estimated at 600 million -- will approach 2 billion by the year 2050.

But the heart of this issue is not in the numbers. The problems of aging present an opportunity to rethink our social and personal lives in order to ensure the dignity and welfare of each individual.

All people have a natural desire to be needed, to have their importance to others tangibly confirmed. Our challenge is to build a society in which people feel truly valued and fulfilled throughout the course of their lives.