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It's moving day for increasing numbers of older Americans who want to change their lifestyles, be closer to adult children, enjoy milder climates or assist family members during times of crisis.

While older Japanese often move for the same reasons, there is another reason as well, one that probably never appears on an American survey: relocating to be near ancestral homes.A four-city survey by Japan's Institute of Population Problems showed that most older Japanese who had moved since 1970 did so either to be near their ancestors' graves or to return to their hometowns and places of birth. Many older women also moved to join their children's households, typically at a child's invitation.

I wonder how many Americans know where their ancestors are buried? Many of our ancestors are buried in other countries, which their offspring left in search of a better life in America. Japan, on the other hand, is one of the oldest of civilizations. Consequently, people can easily trace their family lineages back hundreds of years.

It's not surprising that many older Japanese revere their ancestors' graves, since Japanese society before World War II emphasized two Confucian concepts: ko and chu. Chu refers to the complete devotion to the emperor. Ko prescribes four duties for children:

- The duty to respect and feel piety toward one's parents;

- The duty to promote the fame of one's family by becoming socially successful;

- The duty to devote oneself to the support of parents in old age;

- The duty to perform ancestral worship.

Many elderly Japanese spent their early, formative years under a system of imperial rule. According to Dr. Yashuito Kinoshita, they were subject to "massive moral indoctrination of filial duty. Today many of them live up to it by performing the prescribed responsibilities." - Elyse Salend

QUESTION: I'm a retiree who enjoys gardening, golfing, bicycling and romping with my grandchildren. These activities, however, often produce stiffness, a result I attribute to my age (I'm 62). Any suggestions for how I can alleviate these small aches and pains?

ANSWER: Couch potatoes may be a vanishing breed among Americans over 50, who increasingly are engaging in such enjoyable activities as golfing, dancing and walking. However, these activities are often followed by the aches and pains of arthritis, bursitis and just plain joint and muscle stiffness.

To reduce these effects, the American Physical Therapy Association has compiled tips to help adults enjoy an active life and to delay the effects of the aging process.

Gardeners, for example, are advised to make specific preparations. The APTA suggests they prepare by stretching, especially the lower back, and by strengthening the body - particularly the hands, wrists and knees - with low-impact aerobic exercises.

Adults who enjoy active play with grandchildren may find it easier to carry the little tikes piggyback or catch them in a game of tag if they first warm up. The APTA recommends that grandparents warm up by arching and flexing their backs, turning their heads from side to side, marching in place and taking short walks.

The APTA's "Guidelines for Greater Enjoyment of an Active Life from Age 50 to 65" also describes warm-up exercises for tennis players, dancers, piano players, walkers, travelers and bicyclists. And there is no reason the guidelines can't apply to those beyond the age of 65, as long as they first consult their physicians. To request a free copy, contact the APTA, Public Relations Department, 1111 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

QUESTION: I'm 64 years old and take several prescribed medications daily. Because I have difficulty swallowing pills, I thought of crushing them. Is this OK?

ANSWER: Not without your physician's approval. For example, time-release medications are designed to enter the system gradually and steadily. If swallowed in powder form, all the drug is absorbed at once, which could result in overdose.

Enteric coating prevents medications that are supposed to be released in the intestine from being digested by gastric juices in the stomach. Crushing these pills defeats the purpose and may irritate the linings of the mouth and stomach.

If your doctor determines that your pills cannot be pulverized:

- Try swallowing the whole pill with a mouthful of food.

- Don't tilt your head back; that stretches the esophagus and makes swallowing more difficult.

- Try to get pills in capsule form; the gelatin coating helps them go down easier.

- See if the medication is available in liquid form. It may be more expensive but worth it.

C) 1989 Washington Post Writers Group