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I’m in my 60s, and terrified of living for too long

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my mid-60s who lives alone, and I’m so scared of living for a long time.

In today’s super-aging society, people in their 90s or even centenarians are not special any more. Many members of my family also have lived or are living to an advanced age. My father lived to be over 90, while my mother, who is in her 90s now, suffered a stroke after developing dementia. She is currently hospitalized in an almost unconscious state.

Should I live longer and become bedridden with dementia, my children would likely find it difficult to take care of me, as living their own lives takes up all of their energy. As I now live on a pension and only a small bit of savings, I can’t afford to live in a facility for the elderly. Worse, the savings will run out if I live to 90. I do exercise and I’m careful about my daily diet, out of fear of developing dementia. Ironically enough, though, these efforts will probably also help me live longer.

When I was a child, I thought I would already be dead at my current age. I was also grateful I enjoyed my prime during the nation’s rapid economic growth after the end of World War II. However, I never envisioned I would be worried so much in my twilight years.

I really hope I can swiftly die in my 70s, but that seems like a long shot. How should I overcome my anxiety and the difficulties that are sure to come in enduring a long life?

S, Kyoto Prefecture

Dear Ms. S:

You say you are scared of living longer, and I believe this concern is shared by Japanese people, particularly those who are seriously thinking about their futures.

As you have realized, Japanese have been living a lot longer since the end of World War II. Look at me — I am 20 years older than you. I used to think I would be dead by now.

I nevertheless want to live sincerely because I have many friends of my age who feel the same way. I have the goal of putting into practice a new way of life at a time when many can become centenarians. We are the first generation who can live so long.

Many people have died young, despite their strong desire and a long road still ahead. I believe people like you and me, who are lucky enough to have lived to an advanced age, must enjoy your twilight years.

I suggest you start to do whatever you can do now. People of your age should be registered at their local elderly human resources centers to get as much work as possible, rather than contemplating death. Staying in the workforce meets the social demands of today.

Keiko Higuchi, critic

(from Oct. 12, 2017, issue)Speech

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