Fr. Villa: Japanese elderly, afflicted by loneliness
There are 2 million over ninety years of age in the country. 27.7% of the population is over 65. The "unconnected" society forced to ask "enormous questions" about the future. Experiences at the Listening Center. Anxiety for the future. The fate of the ashes of the deceased without a family.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The number of ultra-ninety year olds in Japan has exceeded 2 million. Japanese newspapers are emphasizing this record number, but for Fr. Marco Villa, Pime's missionary in Koshigaya (north of Tokyo), the real worrying news is "knowing that 27.7% of the population is over 65, retirement age here in Japan, and that 8.5% of population is over 80 ". An aging population that "raises enormous questions for the whole society", afflicted by the loss of family ties and the drama of solitude.
"The lengthening of life and the decline in the productive population," says the missionary, "forces us to wonder whether" younger generations will still be able to sustain, with their payments, the pensions of those between 20 and 30 years old on reaching the age of 65 "; who will take care of the physical and mental health of the elderly person, when already nursing staff or those specialized in geriatric care are insufficient "; and "with 30% of Alzheimer's current 90-year-olds, [if] will be able to have specialist assistance in the future for the most frequent senile disorders of that age group."
The aging of the population "confirms a trend begun in the last decade: Japanese society is becoming a society without ties. The bond with the place of origin, with the family, with the reality where one lives, is becoming less and less a reality. And this loss inevitably accompanies the drama of solitude, and not only of the elderly. "
Fr. Villa has been working for years in the Koshigaya Listening Center, "which aims at solidarity between people and welcomes especially those who want to be in company, listen to and eat with someone."
Recently, two experiences struck the missionary.
Mr. Nojiri attended the Center for less than a year, with his "87 years of age and the many memories ", accompanied by growing and severe episodes of short-term memory loss. For example, he did not remember whether he had eaten or not, or "the road from his home to the Center". These signs of Alzheimer's disease alarmed the wife he lived with for 40 years after the death of his first wife, mother of his daughters. "She too was elderly and had a disabled younger brother, so she decided to abandon her husband to return to her maternal home. Cases of elderly people who have difficulty taking care of the elderly are not uncommon, but Mr. Nojiri's situation moved us because he was the most fragile part of the family and suddenly he found himself living alone, without assistance. The daughters - who have never had a good relationship with his second wife and do not live near their father's home - have at least taken the case of the father to the welfare of the citizen who has been careful to send staff to prepare food at Nojiri's home and who provided assistance in a day-care center for two days a week. The rest of the time was all to be occupied and so every Thursday Nojiri came to the Center to spend 5-6 hours in company. [For the Center] assisting Mr. Nojiri - who wanted to sing, repeated the same thing continuously, and often offended people for nothing - meant giving him much time to the detriment of other people. After a few months, his daughters moved their father to a hospice 80 miles from his home, "in a totally unknown environment and without the company of his beloved dog. Perhaps it was not possible to do better, but perhaps this person deserved more attention and love. "
"Mr. Horiguchi,, is 79 years old. He left home when she was 15, to come to Tokyo to work. A couple of years before his mother had died and he did not get one well with his father’s new wife. He left his father's house cutting all ties ... and nor did he build any. In Tokyo he worked at the fish market and then at some restaurant or hotel, but he never found the right person to marry and make a family. He was repeatedly hospitalized (hospital charges are 30% at the patient's expense), he has no savings and is alone. At his age and in a bad state of mind he began to think - anxiously - of his death and the tomb to guard his ashes, which in normal cases are cared for by a family member, but Horiguchi has no family. "
Horiguchi turned to the municipality: "Nowadays, in addition to the Registry, to the separate collection of waste and the many things entrusted to communal services, in every city there is an office for people who do not have either a tomb or grave, or anyone who can provide for cremation or take the ashes of the deceased once cremated. Horiguchi has thus decided to sign a contract with the funeral agency that the municipality has submitted to him. It is a service that the city council offers to the less well-off, to those who have no more than 180,000 yen monthly [about 1,350 euros]. The city council guarantees that the ashes of a deceased never disappears, and if no one claims it with a degree of kinship it is brought to a common resting place, Horiguchi does not want to be forgotten in a common grave. But to avail of the service, he will have to find a way to make 250,000 yen (almost 1,900 euros), a figure far lower than normal funeral expenses, but his desire is exactly that: at least dead, he can rest in peace. "