Senior Power:Keirō no hi

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:22:00 PM

Japan provides some examples of positive ageism. There’s a national holiday called Respect for the Aged Day… Keirō no hi … celebrated annually to honor elderly citizens. Some social scientists have said that Japan has a gerontocracy in which the elders rule by virtue of their age. This is an exaggeration, but the leaders in business, education, religion, and other institutions do tend to be older. Including elected government officials.  

A national holiday since 1966, Respect for the Aged Day is held on a September Monday, due to the Happy Monday SystemHappī Mandē Seido… Modifications to Japanese law moved a number of national holidays to Mondays, creating three-day weekends for those who have five-day work weeks. Similar legislation in the United States is contained in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Pub.L. 90-363).  

In a 1985 publication, an American gerontologist declared that most older people in Japan were respected and honored because of their age. He contended that this respect was evident in several traditional customs, e.g. special seats reserved for the elderly on buses and trains. This is not uncommon abroad, although the degree of enforcement certainly varies! 

Respect for the Aged Day is also a way to honor longevity. Japanese people have always been some of the longest living. But this too is changing as more and more people add meat and other Western foods to their diets. City living may cut lifespan due to pollution and stress. As Japan's society ages and nursing homes become more popular, being old may not be so special.  

Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day is more serious than the United States’ Grandparents’ Day. Neighborhood volunteers distribute free bento boxed lunches to elderly people. Smaller villages hold keirokai shows in which young people and school children prepare dances and songs for a special ceremony. Attendees are treated to lunch, tea, and sweets... In some locations, the keirokai ceremony used to be held for those 60 years old and over, but with so many people over age 60, the qualifying age to attend is now 65. Keirokai is also celebrated in parts of Canada and the United States. 

As Japanese people get older and older, traditions are changing; respect and honor for older persons has been waning as the culture has become more Westernized. The gradual drift away from Japan's once tightly-knit community bonds results in increased isolation. But there is a deep-seated reluctance to interfere in the lives of others, even those living nearby. Lonely elderly are an urgent social problem. Reporter Yuko Takeo has described the need for Japan to prevent the elderly from dying alone. (Reuters, Aug. 3, 2011). Last year, 4.6 million elderly lived alone across Japan; between 2003 and 2010, the number of those who died at home rose 61 percent, from 1,364 to 2,194, according to the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health in Tokyo.  

Resentment has been growing against senior power and against the duties of caring for infirm parents, which, in Japan, as everywhere, is largely assigned to women. Most men make limited contributions to family care-giving. The practice of living in extended families, where older members care for children, is less and less common. Concern for the welfare of the elderly has come to the forefront in the aftermath of tsunami and earthquakes. 

Japan has the oldest population in the developed world, with the proportion of people age 65+ exceeding 20 percent in 2005, and projected to rise to 40 percent by 2050.Average life expectancy edged over 81 years in 2008—while fertility remained very low—at just under 1.27 births per woman. According to recent (June 2011) demographic data, almost one quarter of Japanese are age 65+. The demographic imbalance between the active and inactive population is not eased by immigration, which as of 2008, was close to zero. Pension Crediting for Caregivers, long life, low fertility, and minimal immigration place a heavy strain on pension finance, which will increase in the future. 




Only half of seniors aged 65+ have access to public transportation. The National Council on Aging reports that millions of seniors struggle to find a way to get to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, and their local senior center. More than half of all non-drivers aged 65+ remain at home because they lack transportation options. 21% of persons aged 65+ do not drive; that number increases to 40% among Hispanic, African American, and Asian seniors. 

CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) has reviewed 2,250 retirement payments and determined that 329, including those of former Bell officials Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia, need to be cut. 

Ninety-eight year old Sensei Keiko Fukudaof San Francisco has become the first woman to earn a 10th degree black belt in judo. Only three others (all men living in Japan) have this martial arts highest ranking.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: August and September 2011. Be sure to confirm. 

Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  

Mondays & Thursdays - 12 Noon – 1 P.M. Older Adult Kosher Lunch. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley;| 5811 Racine Street, Oakland. $7 Seniors, $10 General. (510) 848-0237. 

Wednesdays 10:30 A.M. – 12 Noon Parkinson's Yoga & the Art of Moving. JCC East Bay - Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine Street (58th & Telegraph). $120/month Call Carol @ 925-566-4181. 

Wednesday, August 17 - 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. 2939 Ellis @ Ashby. (510) 981-5170. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178. 

Saturday, August 20 - 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. (510)981-6100. Also Sept. 17.  

Tuesday, August 23 - 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. (510) 747-7510. Overview on reverse mortgages. ECHO non-profit counseling organization presentation.  

Tuesday, August 23 - 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (510)981-6100. 

Tuesday, August 23 - 7 – 8 P.M. El CerritoLibrary. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Book discussion group meets the 4th Tuesday of each month: The Glass Room. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 10 A.M. Dr. Alicia Perez discusses Balance & Dizziness.. Tips to Reduce Falls. Mastick Senior Center. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 1 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. (510) 981-5190. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Great Books Discussion Group. Eliot's The Hollow Men and The Waste Land. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16. 510-526-3720 

Thursday, August 25 – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Music Appreciation Class. 

Join William Sturm, Volunteer. Recital featuring “Norwegian Romantic: Agathe Backer-Grondahl”. The class discussion and recital will be of music by a Norwegian woman composer. 

Monday, August 29 - 10:30 A.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers. Book Club. (415) 552-8800. e-mail:, web:  

Monday, August 29 - 7 P.M. Book Club:Dubliners by James Joyce. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. This is a collection of 15 tales that offers vivid, tightly focused observations of the lives of Dublin's poorer classes. Free. (510) 524-3043.  

Tuesday, August 30 - 1 P.M. - Seminar on funerals and memorialization. Greer Family Mortuary’s Andrew Slakey. Mastick Senior Center. 

Wednesday, August 31 - 2-3:30 P.M. Find your ancestors. Become a genealogical super sleuth at the Central Berkeley Public Library 3rd floor Electronic Classroom for an introduction to, an online resource that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos and more. 




Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 6 – 10 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Creative writing class. Fee class.  

Tuesday, Sept. 6 - 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. “Castoffs” Knitting Group. Enjoy an evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. (510) 524-3043. 

Wednesdays, Sept. 7 and 14 – 9 A.M.-1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. AARP Driver Safety Program refresher course designed for motorists who are 50+. Preregistration required. $12 per person for AARP members, $14 per person for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. 

Wednesday, Sept. 7 - 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. (510) 981-5190. (Note: City Council July 19, 2011 agenda item #10 on Consent Calendar re Berkeley senior centers’ advisory councils.)  

Wednesdays, Sept. 7, 14, 21, 28 & Oct. 5, 12 - 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher, will begin a six-part workshop on the Alexander Technique. Prepaid registration fee of $60. required. 

Wednesday, Sept. 7 - Noon. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Hall. Noon Concert Series 

will resume with Joe Neeman, violin and Miles Graber, piano, performing works by Bartok and Sarasate.  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 through Nov. 3 – 2 P.M.– 4 P.M. Alameda Adult School instructors provide computer instruction at Mastick Senior Center. Note: Tuesday morning class 9:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Register at the Adult School, 2250 Central Avenue, Rm 160 or on-line at  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 - 6-8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Thursday, Sept. 8 - 6-7:45 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, South branch. 1901 Russell St. Lawyer in the Library. Free legal advice and help with questions. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5pm. Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M. 

Friday, Sept 9 - 1 P.M. – 3 P.M. Mid-Autumn Festival. At the North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981-5190.  

Fridays, beginning Sept. 9 Impariamo L’Italiano at Mastick Senior Center. Donatella Zepplin, Instructor. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

10 A.M. - 11 A.M. Beginning Italian. 11 A.M. – 12 Noon. Intermediate Italian.  

Tuesday, Sept. 13 - 9:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Jewelry 

Making with Rose O’Neill. Beads and tools will be supplied. Class is limited to 10 

students. Cost is $15 per person. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Saturday, Sept. 13 - 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. 34th Annual Health Fair. Allen Temple Baptist 

Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Free health screenings. (510)544-8910. 

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 14 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Cultural Events class includes two Berkeley Repertory Theatre performances. $70 per person for the term does not include admission to cultural exhibits (discounted tickets are available). Minimum enrollment of 15 required. To reserve a seat, visit the Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

Thursdays, beginning Sept. 15 - 10 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center Computer Basic Skills class. Nancy D’Amico, Volunteer Instructor. Sign up in advance in the Mastick Office. 

Friday, Sept. 16 - 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. 14th Annual Senior Resource Fair. Presented by San Leandro Senior Services. San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14 St. (510) 577-3462. 

Saturday, Sept. 17 - 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 

Saturdays, Sept. 17 & 18 - 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Willard Park, Berkeley, CA. Outdoors. Free. (415) 285-1717 

Wednesday, Sept. 21 - 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging meets in a senior center, probably North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, cor MLK. #25 AC bus stops at the NBSC. Phone to confirm location (510) 981-5190. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Informative presentation on “Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit.” Lecture by Patient Advocate Linda Garvin, RN, MSN. Register in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. To learn more about Linda Garvin go to 

Tuesday, Sept 27 - 3 P.M. Tea & Cookies Book Club. Central Berkeley Public Library. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group. 6510 Stockton. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. Let the Great World Spin. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, Sept. 28 - 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Morrison's Song of Solomon. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! (510) 526-3720 x 16.