Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

28 May 2013

Something hit me last week. I’ve only got six months left of the decade I currently reside in – only 4,344 hours, 260,640 minutes and millions of seconds that are ticking by as I write now.

Because in six months time it’s my birthday. Not a remarkable moment. But in the little bubble of my life it’ll be a milestone when a zero will appear, once again, at the end of my age. A decade reset and the year of my birth stretched just that little bit further away.

I will probably greet my milestone birthday with a sigh but as the big day draws nearer I’ll also fix my gaze on Japan and a gentleman who, last week, became the oldest man in the world, and the only living man born in the 19th century.

Jiroemon Kimura – born on 19 April 1897 in a fishing village, married in the 1920s, had children through the 1930s, grandchildren in the 1940s and retired from working at the Japan Post office in 1969 aged 65, having worked for 45 years as a postmaster.

Kimura, at 116 years old, is what they call a supercentenarian. Try saying that after a couple of glasses of birthday bubbly. According to researchers at the University of California in LA, 59 supercentenarians are alive today. Only four of them – Kimura included – are men.

But as populations around the world get older, might Mr Kimura offer us a taste of things to come when 116 is really nothing more than a 50th or a 30th birthday is today?

How do deal with an aging population is an issue governments around the world are grappling with. Only last week, a local authority in southern China announced a scheme that would make 60-year-olds in the region care for those who are 80 years old or more.

Jiroemon Kimura’s secret to a long life, he says, is eating small portions at mealtimes and spending lots of time in bed. With that sage and pretty enticing advice, I’ll look ahead to my own birthday six months from now and hopefully to many more.

And if I – by some miracle – make it to my own 116th celebration in the year 2099, I hope you will raise a glass too.

Tomos Lewis is a producer for Monocle 24.

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