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234 000 old folks ‘missing’


marciadottin, [email protected]

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TOKYO, Japan – Something’s fishy in Japan, and it’s not the sushi.
A string of macabre discoveries of dead centenarians has prompted the Japanese government to recheck their numbers and, so far, the results are disturbing.
Although citizens are supposed to notify the government when they move, a national survey undertaken by the authorities has found that 230 000 Japanese over the age of 100 are missing.
The Justice Ministry last month ordered a nation-wide survey of the nation’s 100-pluses after a series of gruesome finds caused many Japanese to worry about the actual whereabouts of their most-senior citizens.
In late July, for instance, the mummified remains of Tokyo’s oldest man – 111-year-old Sogen Kato – were discovered at his family home, where they had lain for the past 30 years.
Soon after, it was revealed that Japan’s oldest woman, 113-year-old Fusa Furuya, had vanished decades earlier. And in late August, police found the bones of a 104-year-old woman stuffed in a backpack at her son’s apartment. He said she had died in 2001, but he never had the money to bury her.
After trawling through official family registries, which residents are supposed to update whenever they move to a new house, the Justice Ministry announced last week that 234 354 centenarians couldn’t be found at their listed addresses.
It’s highly likely that many “missing” old folk simply failed to notify the state of a new address or slipped through the system due to lousy record keeping. Before the nation-wide survey, for example, no official thought it was slightly odd that about 77 000 Japanese were listed on the database as having celebrated their 120th birthday, or that 884 of those had gone on to hit the grand old age of 150.
But along with these blatant bureaucratic failings, it’s also suspected that many families decided to keep quiet about elderly relatives’ deaths so they could keep claiming their state benefits.
Kato’s daughter and granddaughter, for instance, were arrested in late August for allegedly collecting $120 000 in pension payments over the past 30 years.
Remarkably, this mass grey-haired vanishing act hasn’t caused Japan to lose its title as home of the planet’s longest-living people. (The average life expectancy there is 82.6 years, according to the United Nations, compared with 78.2 in the United States).
Government officials reassured that the country’s longevity record – a source of considerable national pride – was safe, as the figure was based on a house-to-house census carried out by field workers every five years.
And as an extra precaution against age inflation, men who are 98 and over, and women who are 103 and over, are excluded from all life expectancy calculations. (Japan Times/AolNews)

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