The challenges of an aging society

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The challenges of an aging society


A six-hour-long colon cancer surgery was successfully performed on a 102-year-old woman, opening the era of cancer surgery on centenarians. I truly envy her courage and am impressed by the advancement of medicine. However, if the aging patient had lived in the “The Last Rebellion,” a short story by French writer Bernard Werber, she wouldn’t even dream of receiving surgery. As France becomes a super-aged society, senior citizens are ostracized. Scholars appear on television and claim that the elderly are responsible for increasing social welfare deficit. Politicians complain that doctors give prescriptions too easily.

In the novel, as public opinion becomes increasingly hostile toward the elderly, the government has suspended the production of artificial hearts. Consequently, the medical and drug allowances for citizens over 70 are limited, and reimbursement for dental cost for people over 80 is discontinued. People over 85 are not reimbursed for the cost of stomach and intestine-related treatments, and people over 90 cannot to receive reimbursement for painkiller prescriptions. Everyone over age 100 is banned from all free medical services. Arrest squads made of young men tour the country to capture the senior citizens to confine them in the Rest, Peace and Comfort Center, only to be killed with lethal shots. Then seniors around the country rise up and begin a guerilla struggle for survival.

In contrast to “The Last Rebellion” is the 2005 movie, “The Island.” In the year 2019, humans can be cloned, and wealthy sponsors secretly incubate their clones in a remote facility in case of injury or illness. Both the novel and the film are full of suggestions to the Korean society, where aging is the most rapid in the world and the medical costs for senior citizens is on the rise. Since the expansion of the medical budget has its limits, it would surely add a burden to the younger generation.

Medical aid is not the only challenge. Driving by seniors casts a dark shadow. The number of traffic accidents by drivers over age 65 has tripled in the last 10 years. Cha Sa-sun, 70, who obtained her driver’s license on the 960th try, has given up driving after a few accidents. She was confused about how to shift and crashed into a wall and a tree.

From driving to medicine, employment, housing and leisure, aging is involved with every social issue. The young and old need to tackle each issue and come to a consensus.

*The writer is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Noh Jae-hyun
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