Has it already been 7 months since I wrote about Japan’s demographic time bomb? How time flies when you’re “having fun.”
The previous posts focused on the future impact of a civilization that’d killed off a significant percentage of its children, and the children it did produce weren’t interested in reproducing. The net result was an inverted population economic pyramid, where there were more significantly more elderly people that needed care and provisioning as compared to younger, energetic workers that would generate economic activity, taxes, and so provide a means to care for their elders. That members of the workforce are required to retire at age 60 doesn’t help maintain economic activity either.
In the time since then I’ve come across some articles which describe aspects of modern-day Japan as its population contracts, people abandon the rural areas, and how society’s oldest people are not only left to fend for themselves, they have little if any contact with their neighbors.
The seriousness of this lack of social interaction is that people with good relations with their neighbors were more likely to be “rescued” if they suffered an accident or something else happened as compared elderly that either had no family members or their family lived more than a mere 15 minutes walking distance away.
The elderly who die alone are termed “Kodokushi”, which literally means “lonely death.” Such people die alone and unnoticed, and their passing can go unnoticed for weeks, or even years. What is even more eyebrow-raising is that every year an estimated 30,000 Japanese citizens leave this world in this manner. For many of these people that survived WW II and then helped rebuild Japan to meet such a horribly undignified end of life is saddening to say the least.
Why is this happening? Because the traditional Japanese three-generational structure of the home is breaking down, and the resulting caregiving burden is more than many families can bear. With no families to take care of them, over 420K elderly people are waiting for nursing home spots in the hopes they’ll find care there.
On a less solemn note, there’s a humorous side effect of Japan’s population drop – which has left upwards of 10,000 towns and villages without anyone to populate them. One such town struggling with a declining and aging population is Nagoro, home of Tsukimi Ayano who returned from Osaka to take care of her aging father. At 65, she’s one of the younger residents of the village – if you don’t count the multitude of scarecrows she’s created and placed in various locations around the village.
Even though it closed to human use two years ago, school’s still “in” for these creations:
Originally created to scare crows away from her radishes, Ayano started making and positioning her creations in various parts of the village to remind her or people that used to live there and the things they did when they were alive and well.