loosing Touch

September 1, 2010

Japanese hunt for missing elderly exposes social woes

By Antoni Slodkowski
Sun Aug 22, 2010

(Reuters) – A Japanese media frenzy over missing centenarians has cast a spotlight on the isolation and loneliness potentially faced by millions of elderly as the government struggles to cope with a rapidly graying population.

The panic – and guilt – was sparked by the discovery that a man believed Tokyo’s oldest male at 111 had actually been dead for over 30 years with his remains found mummified at his home. His family is under investigation for fraud.

Since then authorities have been unable to locate over 250 elderly people and reports have emerged of many old people dying alone, or of relatives running scams to get their pensions amid broken communities and overworked public volunteers.

[ . . . ]

With investigations underway, officials have found many older people have moved away from their family homes, never to be heard from again, showing how the vulnerable with few friends can easily fall through the cracks of a leaky, support network.

Fusa Furuya of Tokyo’s Suginami district, thought to be Tokyo’s oldest woman at age 113, was found not be living at the address where she was registered. She has yet to be found and none of her family know her whereabouts.

[ . . . ]

While Akiyama may show the respect for the elderly that many see as a traditional Japanese value, families are changing and the elderly are no longer automatically cared for by their family.

One-third of Japan’s growing ranks of elderly are expected to be living alone by 2020 due to a fast-aging population and more divorces. The government expects over a quarter of its 127 million citizens to be aged over 65 by 2015. . . .

Ri-Man (Japanese designed elder-care robot)

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