Regarding the July 26 article “Aso draws flak for saying working is seniors’ only talent“: Aside from revealing, again, his penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, then later claiming he had been “misunderstood,” Prime Minister Taro Aso’s remarks reveal an appalling lack of knowledge.
Over the past 20 years and more, research has shown that the elderly are capable of quite a bit; that we have valuable knowledge; that most of us are creative throughout our lives, have talents that communities — at least in America — are largely unaware of, and remain productive, often in volunteer and part-time positions, and often in full-time jobs.
Over 20 years ago, I read about a Japanese citizen in his mid-60s who decided, after retiring at age 60, to study languages. By age 66, he had learned five languages well enough to be able to read and converse in them. At the time, it was thought that people his age were “incapable” of learning a new language, let alone several of them.
My experience in America, where I was a geriatric mental health specialist, showed me that the elderly are loaded with talents, abilities and interests that are valuable to society and to the communities in which we live, if “younger folks” would seek our participation. I assume that this also describes Japan’s elderly, who have a fund of knowledge and experience and, if called upon, would be more than happy to share and contribute to the common good.
I guess one of Aso’s concerns is that we become — or continue to be — taxpayers. With a tsunami of aging approaching, I understand that concern. I was a taxpayer in America until I retired from my profession at age 73 1/2. I now work full time as a writer. When and if I make enough money to pay taxes here, I will happily pay them, as I did in America for over 50 years.
I have suggestions for Aso and other politicians here: Stop telling — and insinuating — that we are “good for nothing” but work. Instead, invite us to participate toward the common good of Japan — that is, if you really want our participation. Wanted or not, most of us participate anyway. But if you ignore us and tell us we’re not good at anything except work and that we ought to work and pay taxes, I’d guess that most of Japan’s elderly will be pretty good at ignoring you when crunch time comes.