I’m pondering a couple of factoids that could provide those of a certain age a curse and a blessing. They need only look west, to Japan, to cancel the calamity and achieve a blessing — maybe a couple of times over.
Japan ranks second in the world — the entire WORLD — in life expectancy, at 85.52 years. The U.S. languishes at 53rd, with a measly 79 years as of this year, according to the geob.se website. The World Health Organization also has rankings, but they’re not as fresh, while geoba.se is current.
And the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has its own gauge, which I’ll mention here but not factor in, because those numbers are apples to the global oranges. For the record, such stats cover life expectancy at birth, so it doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily live to be 79, or even 71 — especially if I step in front of a Mack truck.
Indeed, according to one tally, the life expectancy of someone born in 1948, as I apparently was, is 64.6. I guess that means I’ve contributed to climate change for 13 more years than actuaries had indicated.
Thank God statistics lie, and thank Yahweh I wasn’t born in 1900, when life expectancy was 46.3 years. That’s for men; back then, women lived two years or so longer. Now, the feminine gap has increased to about six years. (Only reason I can think of why men’s lives are cut short is women, but that’s just speculation on my part.)
But enough about me; I’ll get back on point before the numbers lull you to sleep.
Japanese are living longer, which leads one to believe that there must be a helluva housing crunch over there. As it turns out, there’s a glut of houses available, according to a lifestyle column on ThisIsInsider.com, based on Reddit information, which is generally reliable.
The column suggests there are “tons of abandoned and empty houses on the outskirts of Japan’s major cities,” then gets more specific and switches to 8 million homes. (After all, nobody buys homes by the ton.) And people can have them just for the asking, or pennies on the dollar.
One of the main culprits for the abandoned houses is Japan’s aging population, according to the column. There aren’t enough young people to buy the domiciles of people who went to retirement homes or kicked the bucket. The young people who are around are taking longer to have families, so they don’t need homes yet — much like the good old U.S. of A.
Why am I concerned? Well, my heart swelled sympathetically recently as I read a whiney column in the Tribune — I can’t remember who wrote it — about how poor millennials are.
The reason millennials — people between 21 and 37 — are paupers is they don’t make enough money, complained the obviously millennial columnist, who quoted stats that supposedly support his or her wailing. (Dang, I wish I could remember her or his name.)
Granted, that age group often is the object of ridicule from people who ascribe their plight to millennial malaise and insist that they need a little millennial moxie (or a kick in the keister).
I’m not in the critical group because that would be hypocritical of me, an aging boomer.
Instead of adopting a judgmental tone and accusing millennials of being slothful slackers, I suggest it’s time for them to go West, young man. And woman. Japan is only 6,093 miles from La Crosse, as the cruise missile flies.
It’s pricey to fly to Tokyo — ranging from $1,318 to as much as $3,071, according to the Farecompare.com website, which claims it computed those fares by checking 48,195,047,545 round-trip itineraries. (I challenge that figure as hyperbolic, because the answer came back in seconds — and I bet you couldn’t even check 25 million itineraries in that short of time.)
But any millennial who could scrape together the fare could get a free house. Although I don’t eat sushi, millennials have a yen for it, and Japan is sushi capital of the world, so they could scarf raw fish until they grew gills themselves. Maybe if I knew sushi, like they know sushi; oh, oh, oh, I might give it a whirl.
Double whammy curses: Misfortunate millennials live in a country with a lower life expectancy than 52 others, and they can’t afford houses.
Potential double blessing: If millennials just move to Japan, they can get free houses and live longer than people in any other country. Well, except Monaco, which is No. 1 in life expectancy, at 80.37, but I bet dollars to doughnuts no millennials could afford to live there.
Call me naïve, but it makes sense to me.
I feel guilty for not identifying the moody millennial who chronicled his or her age group’s plight — and I should because I just remembered his or her name.
But I thought it would be fun to hide his or her name in the bowels of this column, which I have for a little reader recreation. (Hint, it’s easily decipherable, although more so online than in print.)
Mike Tighe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>, or follow him on Twitter at @necktye.