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Japan checks on elderly as centenarians go missing

[ 2010-08-04 14:09]     字号 [] [] []  
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An elderly woman is led to a temple in Tokyo in this July 17, 2009 file photo.(Agencies)

Japan's health minister on Tuesday called for a nationwide check on the whereabouts of elderly residents in response to a media frenzy over several missing centenarians.

Revelations last week that police had found the mummified remains of a man thought to have been Tokyo's oldest resident at 111 but actually dead for 30 years shocked a country facing the challenge of a rapidly aging population.

Local authorities this week said a woman aged 113, designated Tokyo's oldest person, was not in fact living at the apartment where she was registered. That disclosure became one of Japan's top news stories, raising questions about living standards of the elderly.

"It is important for authorities to grasp the reality of where and how old people are living," Health Minister Akira Nagatsuma told reporters.

More reports of missing centenarians this week showed that their whereabouts were unknown or their family members were unaware of what had happened to them.

The missing elderly people could cast doubt on the exact number of centenarians in Japan, a figure that has been rising for decades.

Officially, Japan has 40,399 people aged 100 or older, including 4,800 in Tokyo, according to an annual health ministry report last year marking the Sept. 21 holiday for the elderly.

Health and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma urged officials to find a better way to monitor the elderly.

"Many people have doubts whether the government properly keeps track of senior citizens' whereabouts," he said. "It is important for public offices to check up on them — where and how they are — and follow through all the way."

But local officials say it is hard to keep track because families are often reluctant to receive official visits.

In the case of the mummified man, police are investigating his family members for possible fraud after money was withdrawn from the bank account of the deceased, who had been receiving a pension, according to media reports.


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(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)