Meet the Japanese cheerleaders with an average age of 70
These spirited Japanese ladies are members of Japan PomPom, a group of 28 cheerleaders in Japan ranging in age from 55 to their late 80’s.
Founded by 84-year-old leader Fumie Takino 20 years ago, the American sport has been gaining in popularity in Japan for the last 30 years, though more in schools and universities.
Why was Ms Takino inspired to take it up then?
A new lease on life
After the end of her marriage and travelling to the US for a master’s degree in gerontology, Ms Takino says she was ready for a change. Returning to Japan, she saw a professional cheerleading performance, complete with somersaults, backflips and human towers – “it blew my mind,” Ms Takino said.
She immediately got together a group of five friends and began practising their moves. Today, dressed in sparkly leotards and knee-high boots, the troupe meets weekly to rehearse, even analysing videos of themselves to improve.
While they avoid too much acrobatics, Ms Takino credits the sport with helping to keep her physically and mentally fit.
“Once you hit the age of 70, you have to admit it’s downhill.” she says. “We’ve come a long way in 20 years!” she adds.
Ageing with attitude
Japan is well-known for its long life expectancy – women can expect to live to 87 while the average for men is 80. However, many Japanese spend the last years of their lives in poor health, with the average “healthy” lifespan ten years less for both sexes.
While some of the members have left because of health issues or to care for ageing husbands, they have no problem finding new recruits.
One prospective member Shinko Kusajima, in her late sixties, said the troupe had given her the chance to meet new people: “When you get old, you keep losing friends, but you always have mates here to share a good time.”
You do have to be over 55 to join though.