December 3, 2013

ikigaiAs the world’s “oldest” country, with 21 percent of its population over the age of 65 and the world’s highest life expectancy at 82, Japan might have a thing or two to teach us about aging. Some researchers think that the Japanese lifestyle might hint at their exceptional life expectancy.

While elderly Japanese people face the same issues as their counterparts worldwide, including declining health, it appears that older Japanese have developed more positive ways to manage these challenges. Ikigai, or life purpose, is what older Japanese focus on as they age. According to Yoshiko Matsumoto, a linguistics professor at Stanford University and the author of Faces of Aging: The Lived Experiences of the Elderly in Japan, ikigai “guides why they do what they do each day, from exercise to social engagement to productive contributions and engagement with their families and society.”

Read more about how the Japanese embrace aging and how it might help Americans age with fuller purpose in this article.