Elderly people encouraged to give up all driving privileges in exchange for somewhat cheaper Happy Meals.

This 17 September marked a holiday known as Respect for the Aged Day on which citizens of Japan take some time to honor those among us who have spent the longest time on Earth. Children give presents and spend time with their grandparents to show thanks, and some television programs run features on the trials and victories of the nation’s oldest people.

And in the prefecture of Aichi a special ceremony was held by the Prefectural Police and McDonald’s Japan to announce a brand new campaign with which to respect the aged. Any senior who surrenders their driver’s license to the police will be eligible to get 100 yen (US$0.89) off a Happy Meal and up to 110 yen ($0.98) off regular combos.

Now, before you go fumbling through your wallet in a mad rush to hand over your ability to drive legally, it should be noted that this offer is only valid at participating McDonald’s stores and applies to only the Big Mac, Chicken Fillet, Bacon Lettuce Burger, and Fillet-o-Shrimp Combos, and only the Cheeseburger Happy Meal.

This does, however, mean that our respected elders will be granted a discount on the upcoming and coveted Kamen Rider and Pretty Cure toys via the aforementioned Cheeseburger Happy Meal.

▼ My grandfather was the CEO of a mechanical engineering firm, so I’m sure he’d go ape for these!

The announcement was made at a star-studded affair in a shopping mall rotunda featuring Ronald McDonald, the Traffic Safety Girls Club, pro-soccer mascot dolphin Grampus-kun, and McDonald’s Central Japan Regional Director Noriaki Morikawa.

All this and yet comments online still weren’t overly enthusiastic about the new collaboration between police and fast-food.

“They crazy?”
“Do elderly people like Happy Meals?”
“Why not just give them a rice ball? It costs the same.”
“In exchange for their license, they get an accelerated death from junk food.”
“It will be funny when someone tries to get the discount using the drive-through.”
“I guess older generations just can’t resist some McDonald’s…”

Now that we got all the cynicism about the quality of McDonald’s and overall underwhelming face-value of this announcement out of the way, it is important to note that this could actually be a really important step in helping to reduce traffic accidents.

This partnership is another step in an ongoing program that offers what is sometimes referred to as Driver’s Graduation Certificates from police departments across Japan. Elderly drivers who no longer feel they are capable of operating a motor vehicle safely are encouraged to surrender their licenses in exchange for a mock license that proves they were once drivers.

▼ Aichi Prefecture offers a choice of a Driver’s Graduation Certificate or a more jaunty Momo Card, either of which offers discounts at 62 businesses and growing.

This certificate can be used for identification purposes, just like a regular license, and also can be used for discounts on public transportation, taxis, and other goods and services. However, under this system, one single business can’t offer huge discounts because the rapidly growing number of elderly people could result in huge losses.

To give a sense of how huge, in Respect for the Aged Days gone by the Japanese Government used to give anyone who turned 100 a small silver cup. However, the centenarian population has exploded from 153 in 1963 to 29,357 in 2015. The enormous cost increase that came with it has forced the government to look for cheaper alternatives.

▼ On Respect for the Aged Day 2018 the mayor of the relatively small city of Ito hands flowers to the new centenarians. This year will see 83 people turn 100 in Ito alone.

And that’s only people over 100; the total purchasing power of all seniors in Japan is a force to be reckoned with and impractical for a single business – even one as big as McDonald’s – to shoulder. But if enough businesses offer reasonable discounts at the same time through Driver’s Graduation Certificates, it could work out well for everyone involved and ultimately save lives.

Rather than mediocre savings on fast food, what the addition of McDonald’s brings to the table is its enormous brand recognition and the potential for small and medium-sized businesses to stand shoulder to shoulder with it. That in itself could go a long way in creating a driver’s license exchange program truly befitting of Respect for the Aged Day.

Source: CBC News, Otakomu, Time
Top image: SoraNews24
Insert image: @Press