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2010年8月 6日 (金)

高齢者所在不明 家族と地域で「長寿」見守ろう

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 6, 2010)
We must keep an eye on our elderly citizens
高齢者所在不明 家族と地域で「長寿」見守ろう(8月5日付・読売社説)

Many municipal governments have reported that they do not know the whereabouts of some centenarians who are registered as residents in their areas.

Although they are recorded as "alive" on their family registers, neither the local governments nor their families have been able to confirm this.

We cannot help but be dismayed that this situation exists in a society that boasts of the longevity of its people.

Municipal governments began checking into the whereabouts of local centenarians after the mummified remains of a man who was registered as being 111 years old were found in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

Then a woman believed to be 113 years old, which would make her Tokyo's oldest person, was reported missing. She is registered as living in Suginami Ward, Tokyo.

In Nagoya, the supposed residence of a 106-year-old man was found to have been turned into a parking lot. His family did not know where he was.

According to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, nearly 50 centenarians are missing as of Wednesday.

The common thread in these cases is that neither local government officials in charge of elderly welfare nor welfare commissioners made direct contact with centenarians before the current investigations began.

Japan has about 40,000 centenarians, a 3.5-fold increase over the past 10 years.

Officials must meet elderly

The methods of confirming the whereabouts of elderly people or if they are actually alive or not differ among local governments. In many cases, they check the use of services provided through the nursing care or health care insurance programs, without bothering to visit places of residence and meeting with elderly people individually.

Although municipal governments may suffer from a shortage of manpower and funds, it is crucial that officials meet these people to see how they are doing if they have not used health care facilities for some time.

Some local governments admit having difficulty in pursuing their investigations after families tell officials that their elderly relatives do not want to meet them or that they have moved into facilities for the aged in other prefectures.

Local governments are probably afraid of being accused of infringing on the privacy of the families if officials insist on meeting elderly people or otherwise persist in their investigations. But we wonder whether they are overreacting to provisions of the Personal Information Protection Law.

Ties weakening

When it comes to the disbursement of public funds, such as for pensions and congratulatory payments to mark elderly residents' longevity, local government officials are obliged to confirm the whereabouts of the recipients and whether they are alive. Revisions of relevant laws should be considered in this respect, if necessary.

What is worrisome is the weakening of elderly people's ties to their relatives and local communities in this fast-aging society.

It has become apparent through the latest investigation that with the trend toward the nuclear family there are cases in which both the parents and children have aged, and fail to meet or keep in contact with each other.

The functions of local communities, in which residents keep an eye on elderly people through daily contact as neighbors, seem to be on the decline.

We must try to recover the strength of our society, whereby families and communities should warmly watch over our "long lives."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2010)
(2010年8月5日01時23分  読売新聞)


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