Lessons from 'lonely deaths' among Japan's elderly

In Japan, such deaths are referred to as “kodokushi” – lonely deaths. In the latest case, three bodies lay unnoticed for up to two months in an apartment in Japan. The three people, believed to be from the same family, were discovered on Tuesday in Saitama, north of Tokyo. The couple were in their sixties and their son in his thirties who died of starvation.

As we look to Japan as a model of what other societies may be like when they reach a similar super-aged status, this is a sad and frightening phenomenon. Consider this despite being the world’s third richest country!

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that electricity and gas to the house had been cut off, there was no food in the house and just a few one-yen coins. The story was also covered here by the BBC.

Last month two sisters in their forties were found dead in their freezing apartment on the snowbound northern island of Hokkaido.

In 2010 the authorities discovered that Tokyo’s oldest man had actually been dead for some 30 years, which in turn triggered a hunt for “missing” centenarians around the country.