February 19, 2006

ATOMIZED AGAIN:

For Elderly in Japan, a Very Long Winter: Social Changes Leave Many To Fend for Themselves (Anthony Faiola, 2/19/06, Washington Post)

Over the past 2 1/2 months, the snow and cold weather have been blamed in the deaths of 85 senior citizens across Japan's northwest and the injuries of more than 1,000 -- many of whom were living alone or with elderly spouses.

The mounting toll from this winter, analysts and officials say, has exposed one of Japan's greatest challenges as it struggles to cope with the world's most rapidly aging population. For generations, Japanese families practiced the time-honored tradition of living with and caring for grandparents under one roof. But that tradition has faded. Many Japanese now live in homes with only members of their nuclear family, and the number of single people living alone in cities is also on the rise.

Accordingly, the number of Japanese seniors living alone or with elderly spouses has doubled over the past decade. The situation has presented the nation with a stark question: As the nature of family changes in Japan, how will the Japanese care for the soaring number of seniors being left to live on their own?

The vulnerability of this group is obvious. In this snow-blanketed rural town 140 miles northwest of Tokyo, Shinichi Nakajima, 89 and a recent widower, died after falling into a well while trying to clear piles of snow from his yard. In another, equally horrific incident, Kyoko Hasegawa, an 80-year-old widow living alone on the outskirts of the northern city of Akita, became trapped in snow while attempting to board up her windows and froze to death.

"There was a time in Japan when grandparents always lived with their children's family, and there was always someone young around the house to do the physically difficult chores," said Tokozumi, who is now undergoing rehabilitation after having pins inserted in one of his heels.

"But those days are vanishing," he continued, glancing out a hospital room window at the falling snow. "In my neighborhood, most of the households are now elderly people living without their extended families. And we're all getting older. I don't know what we're going to do."


Always amusing to hear people chatter who think the Japanese still live in tenement-like population density.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2006 5:29 PM
Comments

First, it's the heat killing France's elderly. Now, the cold is slaying them in Japan.

The unborn die at the hands of the "civilized", now followed by the aged. There no longer is any respect for life.

Posted by: obc at February 19, 2006 5:37 PM

"I don't know what we're going to do."

Well, we know what your countrymen hope you do.

Posted by: Peter B at February 19, 2006 6:41 PM

"Always amusing to hear people chatter who think the Japanese still live in tenement-like population density."

They do, in Tokyo. What's described in the article is in large part because all the young people of Japan went off to Tokyo, leaving their elderly relatives behind in the 田舎 (inaka, countryside) to fend for themselves.

Posted by: John Thacker at February 19, 2006 7:04 PM

Yes, the young aren't living in bunches in those apartments.

Posted by: oj at February 19, 2006 7:07 PM

I've spent a summer in Tokyo, living with local families. Not quite tenement, but very dense, much more crowded feeling than say New York City or Chicago.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 19, 2006 9:56 PM

Many Japanese now live in homes with only members of their nuclear family, and the number of single people living alone in cities is also on the rise.

Posted by: Anthony Faiola at February 20, 2006 9:35 AM

Always amusing to hear people chatter who think the Japanese still live in tenement-like population density.

You've . . . never been to Tokyo, have you? Uh, yes they do. Just not out in the countryside. Where they never did.

Well, maybe not tenement-like density -- it's not the Walled City of Kowloon, exactly -- but high density suburbs going on for miles and miles, well beyond the limits of Tokyo proper, and extending over pretty much the entire Kanto plain.

Posted by: Taeyoung at February 20, 2006 12:18 PM

Close houses with fewer people equals lower density.

Posted by: oj at February 20, 2006 12:42 PM

Now that Canada has come to its senses, Japan has moved up to the most boring country with no close second.

Posted by: erp at February 20, 2006 2:02 PM

it's that high density that tends to draw monster attacks against tokyo.

Posted by: toe at February 21, 2006 2:44 PM
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