/ Translated by Colin Kuan
The term “shuukatsu” has become a popular buzzword in recent years
What then is “shuukatsu”?
Shuukatsu originated from Japan.
According to the United Nations 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, the most important social trend of the 21st century is the ageing of the population. The number and proportion of the elderly population in almost every country in the world is increasing year by year, and the growth rate of the 65-and-above group has exceeded that of younger groups for the first time in history.
Japan is one of the world’s top countries in terms of longevity. According to statistics from the Japanese government, the population over the age of 65 has reached the highest in the world. The number of elderly people has increased sharply and the fertility rate is extremely low, resulting in the phenomenon of low birth rate and ageing population. With this phenomenon, elderly Japanese living alone have become the norm, and there isn’t even any family member to be there for them when they die. Consequently, many elderly people plan their afterlife affairs in advance to uphold the principle of “not inconveniencing others” and to reduce anxiety about their deaths.
This is what is called, “shuukatsu”. It is the act of preparing for one’s death. The concept of “shuukatsu” promotes the idea that people should plan for their afterlife while they are still alive and start to take a proactive approach to saying goodbye. The significance of this act is that it allows people to reevaluate the one-way journey of life, to plan and organise their own affairs, and more importantly to meet their end with the “greater dignity” that they desire.
Facing death does not mean spending your days in depression, waiting for that day to come; on the contrary, you should actively prepare this one-way journey with a sunny and positive attitude, and spend the rest of your days with no regrets.
In fact, the benefits of “shuukatsu” do not stop there, but the advantages it can bring to the family are also noteworthy. From another perspective, it can ease a family’s financial burden and educate the next generation on the concept of life planning. In today’s family structure, a well-off family consists of a couple, one to two children and one to two parents. This is the problem that every couple has to face in today’s society, bearing all the expenses of providing for the older generation and educating the next generation. Undoubtedly, this will be a huge and continuous expense that will be firmly imposed on the couple, becoming the typical sandwich group.
If the older generation can properly plan their retirement and end-of-life properly, implement the concept of “shuukatsu”, and change and realise new concepts and ways of ageing, it will definitely help to alleviate this phenomenon. In addition, this act can also inspire future generations to pay more attention to the importance of life planning. Life education should start at an early age, instilling the right concepts and making them learn to think, will help children develop and achieve a better life later on.