With the birthrate at an all time low, and marriage rates plummeting as well, many are predicting that Japan may soon become a gerontocracy. In fact recent predictions by the government estimate that by 2060 nearly half of the country will be over the age of 65. The social, political and economic repercussions are massive including the collapse of the pension and social welfare systems, the disappearance of many rural communities, and a population decline of over 1 million people a year. But let’s leave the speculation to the experts and focus on the signs of Japan’s greying society that are already an inescapable reality.
1. Elderly crime rates have already surpassed those of teenagers
Depending on how you read it, this could either mean that Japanese teens are becoming ever more docile, or that old folks are going buck wild. For the first time since the National Police Agency started publishing crime statistics, crime among pensioners has surpassed teenage crime rates. You’re probably imagining petty crimes like shoplifting or jaywalking, but according to the NPA’s report, violent crimes committed by people over 65 have risen 10%. Some of the reasons suggested for the sudden rise in elderly crime are dwindling pension pay-outs, rising healthcare costs and a shortage of nursing homes that make elderly people consider prison as an alternative to homelessness. Whatever the reason, this certainly gives new meaning to the term O.G.
2. Adult diapers are predicted to outsell baby diapers
To be fair, the term outsell in this case has more to do with total revenue than amount of units sold, but even so it is a startling statistic. What I find infinitely more humorous is that one of the key paper companies investing in the future of adult nappies is called Oji Holdings, which sounds an awful lot like “ojii” – the Japanese word for “old man” and …well I don’t have to explain what holdings makes me think of.
3. There aren’t enough crematoriums to meet the demand
This is simultaneously gross and sad. On average many funeral facilities, especially crematory services, have a waiting list of a week or more. Keep in mind that embalming is not customary in Japan and you see what a problem that can be, especially in the balmy summer months. Funeral traditions in Japan typically leave the body out for a day, preserved with ice, but with recent wait times many families have to resort to cold storage until a slot opens up. Sorry, that pun is a little tasteless.
4. Mandatory dementia tests for elderly drivers
A new bill proposed to the diet would include tests for dementia in order to renew driver’s licenses. Although the rate of fatal traffic accidents have fallen nationwide, the rate of accidents involving elderly drivers has increased dramatically. The new bill would require drivers suspected of having dementia to submit to a cognitive function test. My question is, why the hell wasn’t this already a law?
5. Special convenience stores for the elderly
It’s hard to imagine a convenient store that is not full of teenagers binging on junk food and clogging up the magazine aisles reading comics, but according to recent market research older customers have increased by 21% while teenage customers have declined by 34% in the last 25 years. As a result, convenience store chain Lawson has opened a new test shop in Tokyo that caters to older clientele. This shop includes a pharmacy, healthier bento options, home delivery services and even a consultation desk for nursing care. Not to be outdone, rival chain Family Mart recently acquired Senior Life Create Co. and has begun their own bento delivery service, as well as creating combination shops that include convenience stores and drugstores. It’s like a combination Pizza-Hut and Taco Bell, except it’s for old people.
It is difficult to imagine what the long term effects of such a dramatic demographic shift, but one thing is for certain: it is not a young man’s world anymore.