Christina Peng/ Beckman HS 9th Grade
As the world’s oldest population, more than a quarter of Japan’s citizens are aged 65 or older. Yet the rise of longevity becomes a tow on Japan’s economy as the growing dependency ratio strain the working class.
According to Bloomberg, in recent years and record numbers, complaints and arrests involving these older citizens are outpacing those of any other demographic in Japan, and the elderly crime rate quadrupled over the past couple of decades.
In Japan’s prisons, one out of every five inmates is an elder. This alarming phenomenon stems from the difficulties of caring for the country‘s elderly population. Between 1985 and 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. These elders often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.
For these seniors, a life in jail is better than the alternative. “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home,” Yumi Muranaka, the head warden of Iwakuni Women‘s Prison, reported.
In this day and age, too much do we idolize the youth and ignore treasures of wisdom from the community around us. According to Psychology Today, when we see an image of the elderly, the empathetic part of our brain does not light up.
We are beginning to develop an indifference toward the men and women who experienced this world long before we were even born, and shrug off the mounds of history begging to unravel so ancient horrors will never repeat itself.
Although I don’t have the funds to fly to Japan, there are plenty of elderly people in my community from whom I can learn and honor. To give them my time and the gift of their stories, I decided to interview an elderly couple from my church and create Wing and Minna, a charitable book project that tracks the life path of the immigrant lovers.
Their life story inspired me to create Dear Sage, a forum (Padlet.com/DearSageProject/QA) that connects young people with questions with older people who have the wisdom and answers. When I put out a call to my peers for questions, I was struck by all the confusion and sadness out there, but also filled with joy to connect kids who are desperately seeking answers with older people who have found great purpose by giving those kids answers.
I encourage you to step into the lives of our dearest elders and consume the jewels of their past so that history won’t repeat itself. For each overcame hardships, successes, and failures you could never have imagined--immigration, war, famine, and beyond! Listen to their story with patient ears and prepare for a big surprise. They will appreciate your time and attention more than you know!
<Christina Peng/ Beckman HS 9th Grade