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2008年9月16日 (火)


(Mainichi Japan) September 15, 2008
Respect for the Aged Day

The little girl Nelly was close to her next door neighbor, Bartholomew. When she was a toddler, the old man took her on walks in a stroller, and when she began to totter about on her own, he lent her a helping hand when she needed one. As Nelly grew up, Bartholomew grew older.

One day, Bartholomew got injured and had to use a wheelchair. So Nelly began to push him around in it and take him on walks, just as he had done for her when she was little. As the days passed, they made "special trades" for everything -- the baby stroller for the wheel chair, the helping hand of the old man for the helping hand of the young girl.

"A Special Trade," by Sally Wittman (translated by Shuntaro Tanigawa as "Tottoki no tokkaekko"), is an American picture book that gracefully tells us how we should treat the elderly that we encounter. Indeed, as we live our lives, we all trade in one role for another.

Today is Respect-for-the-Aged Day, and it is quite sad to hear depressing tales of grandchildren who steal from, or even kill their grandparents. And due to the shortage of young workers, the elderly are forced to rely increasingly on foreign workers to provide their nursing and home care. As long as the nuclear family displaces the extended family, and people live longer, the gulf between generations will continue to widen.

And as the income gap increases, young low-income earners and the elderly will suffer the most.

In the October issue of "Sekai" magazine, psychiatrist Inada Nada and author Karin Amamiya have called on young people and the elderly to join hands to "change Japan," and are urging that more respect be given to the spirit of mutual assistance rather than the concept of self-responsibility.

In this summer's hit movie, "Ponyo on the Edge of a Cliff by the Sea," there is a nursery school situated right next to a nursing home for the aged. The director Hayao Miyazaki apparently believes that "mutual support between generations" begins with exchanges between children and the elderly. To respect the aged is to sustain the hope to live.

("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
毎日新聞 2008年9月15日 0時11分


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