Japan’s difficulty in tracking people over 100 years old

Japan is known for having a high life expectancy: according to 2008 public data, the world’s life expectancy is 69, the US’s is 78, and Japan’s is 83. With this higher life expectancy, Japan has a large number of centenarians, people who are over 100 years old. But there is a problem: the Japanese government has had problems keeping track of this population group.

More than 230,000 Japanese citizens listed in government records as at least 100 years old can’t be found and may have died long ago, according to a government survey released Friday.

In August, the Justice Ministry ordered a review of records that found about 77,000 people who would be at least 120, and 884 people who would be 150 or older. The head count followed a flurry of reports about how elderly people are falling through the cracks in Japan as its population ages rapidly and family ties weaken.

In all, the survey of family registration records nationwide found that 234,354 centenarians were still listed as alive, but their whereabouts were unknown, the ministry said.

While this could be chalked up as simply a bureaucratic problem, the news story suggests these findings line up with concerns about how the elderly are treated in Japan. This then could be a larger issue that concerns social and family relationships and the fabric of Japanese society.

So much technology, so little writing

Some students in China and Japan are finding that they are losing the ability to write. It sounds like they can see the words and know how to spell but they are losing the ability to remember the characters:

Yet aged just 21 and now a university student in Hong Kong, Li already finds that when she picks up a pen to write, the characters for words as simple as “embarrassed” have slipped from her mind.

“I can remember the shape, but I can?t remember the strokes that you need to write it,” she says. “It’s a bit of a problem.”

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Surveys indicate the phenomenon, dubbed “character amnesia”, is widespread across China, causing young Chinese to fear for the future of their ancient writing system.

Young Japanese people also report the problem, which is caused by the constant use of computers and mobile phones with alphabet-based input systems.

I don’t know how much of a problem this might be. If one is engaged in one media realm (texting, the Internet, etc.), it makes some sense that writing skills would decline and perhaps disappear. While I still remember how to write letters, I have found my writing endurance has declined. Particularly for people younger than me, I imagine writing might seem pretty archaic compared to the quickness of digital technology.

There is a suggestion later in the article that this might affect reading skills. There are also suggestions that the Chinese language is changing with the advent with new technology. Ultimately, languages and communication options do change over time. This is a great example of how changing technology can affect and alter language.