Japan's centenarians at record high of 36,276
The Associated Press
Published Friday, September 12, 2008 11:13AM EDT
TOKYO - The number of Japanese living beyond 100 has more than doubled during the past six years to a record high of more than 36,000 this year, with women dominating the centenarian club, the government said Friday.
Japan will have 36,276 people aged 100 years or older at the end of September, surpassing last year's 32,295. Female centenarians comprised 86 percent of the total, the Health and Welfare Ministry said in an annual report ahead of the Sept. 15 national holiday honoring the elderly.
Each new centenarian will receive a letter from the prime minister and a silver cup.
Japan has one of the world's longest life expectancies -- nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men.
The number of centenarians has been on the rise for nearly 40 years, and accelerating its pace after surpassing 10,000 in 1998, the ministry said.
Japan's centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million -- the world's largest -- by 2050, according to U.N. projections.
Though centenarians are more active than before, the rapidly graying population has added to concerns about Japan's overburdened public pension system.
A 113-year-old woman from the southern island of Okinawa, whose name was not disclosed, holds the national title. Though her daily activities require assistance, she enjoys going outside in a wheelchair with a nurse, the ministry said.
The oldest man, Tomoji Tanabe, 112, from another southern prefecture, Miyazaki, is health conscious. He rises early, reads newspapers every morning and drinks milk in the afternoon, and keeps a diary every evening.
Okinawa has the highest concentration, with 838 centenarians, or 61 for every 100,000 people. That is far above a nationwide average of just over 28 per 100,000. The ratio for Tokyo is about 25 in 100,000, and that for the U.S. is about 10 per 100,000.