65 is the New 20

ice

In the USA we have a saying these days that “30 is the new 20.” What is meant by this is that many people are putting off responsibilities that would traditionally begin in one’s early 20’s (e.g. marriage, stable career path, home-ownership) to later in life (if ever engaged in at all).

In Japan, the baby boomers definitely did not wait until later in life for these responsibilities. They dove in head-first,  never experiencing the sort of individual freedom that is so sought after today. The value system was one of self-sacrifice, not self-realization. (That’s not to say that the latter precludes the former; the sacrifice was viewed as a must, however, and many probably could not imagine living a self-centered life without it.  “Realization” of one’s personal interests and hobbies was just something that had to be attempted on the way if one could find the time.)

In Japan this generation worked hard, and now, at the age of retirement (65) they are finding themselves with all of the freedom that they never had to peruse the hobbies they were to busy to engage in in their youth (and chunky monthly pension returns to fund them). It is common for retirement and old age to be viewed in Japan not as a period of decline, but as a chapter of opportunity and new beginnings.

All over the world their faces are lit up like teenagers, exploring the world in ways they never could before. They’re becoming hikers, outfitting themselves with professional gear and guides and can be found on trails all over the world. They’re ditching their houses and taking endless roadrips through every prefecture and UNESCO site that they’re minds desire. They’re learning new languages, visiting new countries, taking up paint and calligraphy brushes, arranging flowers and becoming masterful zen gardeners.  Quite frankly, they’re making my generation jealous.

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