25 hospitals turn man down: An elderly Japanese man who was turned down by 25 hospitals while he suffered an apparent heart attack might be a symptom of a greater problem.
A 75-year-old Japanese man who died after paramedics attempted to get him to 25 hospitals but was turned down might be symptomatic of Japan’s burgeoning elderly population.
In recent years, Japan’s birth rate—like many industrialized countries’ birth rates—has decreased while the number of elderly people has increased. Since 2007, deaths have outnumbered births across the country primarily because of low fertility rates. Japan also has the longest life expectancy in the world, at 82.7 years in 2010, and women are expected to live a whopping 86.1 years.
Last year, the Tokyo Times reported that Japan’s population of those over the age of 65 reached a record high, at 23.3 percent of the total population. From 2006 to 2011, the demographic increased from 26.5 million to 29.47 million, representing an 11 percent increase.
This is leaving Japan’s social services under duress caused by the medical and financial needs of the elderly, which could possibly be evidenced by the 75-year-old man’s inability to find a hospital in more than two dozen attempts.
The Guardian reported several weeks ago that the number of households receiving welfare amount to more than 678,000, or around 40 percent. And in 2010, 4.6 million elderly people in Japan lived by themselves.
The increase in Japanese elderly has prompted a few, recent controversies.
In January, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that the elderly should just “hurry up and die” to alleviate pressure on Japan’s social services.
“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” said Aso, who is 72. “The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die,” according to the paper. He also referred to people who can’t feed themselves anymore “tube people,” but later apologized for his comments.
The burgeoning elderly population will only increase, figures have shown. In two decades, it is estimated that seniors will outnumber children under the age of 15 by four to one, according to Time magazine.
With this in mind, Naoki Kakuta, 20, told the Washington Post that Japan’s future looks cloudy.
“To me, it sounds more and more like we’re passing this on to the younger people…I feel especially bad for the generation after mine. And that certainly doesn’t motivate me to have more children,” he said.
And Bloomberg reported recently that the country cannot build retirement homes quickly enough.
“The system is designed for the 1970s, when multiple generations lived together and family caregiving was thought to continue forever,” Hiroshi Takahashi, a International University of Health and Welfare professor, told the news agency. “But that’s not the reality now.”
He said the number of seniors living alone will increase by an estimated 54 percent to 7.2 million household units in 2030, compared with levels in 2010. “Society and the system will blow up around 2025 without a drastic change,” he said.
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