Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Elderly

Japan is a granny and gramps country. The aged are everywhere, and they enjoy the quiet life that can be found here on this set of islands. Earthquakes come and earthquakes go, and so do the old folks on bikes. No wonder they live for so long--they ride their bicycles until they're well into their 80's!

They don't get a whole lot of respect here from the young though. I recently went back to Korea for a short visit, and I noticed a huge difference in attitude. On the trains, for instance, the seats reserved for the elderly, injured or pregnant are usually filled with people at all times of the day here in Japan. Young people rarely think twice before popping a squat. In Korea, however, people will often stand rather than occupy a reserved seat, even if there doesn't happen to be anyone around who might need to sit down.

The influence that Confucianism has on Korean society is well documented, and this is just one reflection of it. Despite the amount of pride taken in the longevity of Japanese seniors, it is interesting to witness the indifference to their comfort that exists here within the younger populations.

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