The government's updated outline for its policy on the elderly — with its proposal to raise the optional age for receiving public pensions to 71 or older — seeks to change the uniform definition of people 65 or older as senior citizens and instead enable those willing and fit enough to keep working irrespective of their age. Noting that today's older adults are much healthier than previous generations, the new policy aims to encourage the healthy elderly to stay in the labor force longer and support society. Behind it is a growing need to make up for the declining ranks of the productive-age population and sustain the social security system in our rapidly graying society.

The new policy appears to make sense, given the improved health and changing lifestyles of elderly people as well as the nation's demographic realities. What's crucial to making it work will be greater efforts to secure job opportunities for those elderly people who can and are willing to remain in the workforce.

Last year, a group of academic societies, including the Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society, proposed redefining "elderly" as age 75 or older — instead of 65 or older as has been commonly referenced for decades — and people from 65 to 74 as "semi-elderly" who can actively engage in social activities. Scholars stated that advances in medical technology and living conditions make people five to 10 years younger in terms of their physical and intellectual abilities compared with a decade ago.