Japanese seniors volunteer with earthquake cleanup

In March 2011, Japan was struck by a massive underwater earthquake, called a tsunami. The natural disaster killed nearly 16,000 people, and also severely damaged the local Fukushima power plant. That accident caused a radiation spill, and many health risks for the general population.

In the aftermath of the disaster, a group of seniors decided that they, not younger people, should be the ones to help clean up the radiation, according to a BBC report.

“I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,” organizer Yasuteru Yamada, a retired engineer, told the news source. “Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop.”

As a result, Yamada said that it made more logical sense for seniors to help clean up the nuclear waste, rather than potentially shortening the life spans of younger volunteers or health workers.

To help enlist support for his proposal to have seniors volunteer at the power plant, Yamada had lobbied local parliamentarians and reached out to friends through social media and e-mail.

Whether living at home or in assisted living communities, everyone from children to seniors can take inspiration from Yasuteru Yamada’s efforts.