News On Japan

Skyrocketing numbers of elderly singles falling prey to shady operators

TOKYO, Sep 04 (News On Japan) - Skyrocketing numbers of elderly without relatives are being exposed to predatory practices by private companies.

The number of single-person households of those aged 65 or over has more than doubled this century, skyrocketing from 3.03 million in 2000 to 6.72 million in 2020, the most recent year statistics are available.

This has created a red-tape nightmare with many of the elderly lacking relatives and often leaving them in a limbo when it comes to matters such as guarantees for hospitalization or institutionalization, property management, wills, cremation after death and disposal of their personal belongings.

Among the single elderly who have prepared in advance by paying private companies to look after their affairs upon falling ill, infirm or dying are those who have been exploited.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, there was an average of over 100 complaints per year from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2020 made to consumer affairs agencies about private companies paid to look after single people 65 and older and accused of not fulfilling promised services.

An agency official said the cause of the complaints often lies in the complexity of agreements, diversity of services offered that make it difficult to make precise choices of desired care and the payment for postmortem services made while the person seeking care is still alive.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently told officials in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, which has the nation's highest proportion of residents aged 65 or over at nearly 40%, that the government will seek to rectify the situation.

Private companies offering, but sometimes not providing, paid services are behind many problems, especially those with malicious intent.

Compounding matters are a lack of direct regulations and lack of clarity over the government agencies that should be overseeing the situation facing the single elderly.

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