Life and Human Dignity

The Point: Japan’s Prison of Old Age


John Stonestreet

Japan is seeing a spike in petty crime. The reason might surprise you.

Japan is facing more than a few problems, all stemming from a root problem; Japan’s fertility rate has been below replacement level since the 1970s. Now, the island nation has the oldest population in the world, with not enough children or extended families to care for folks as they age. So some elderly Japanese women have devised an alternative retirement plan: prison.

Yes, you heard that right. A recent Bloomberg article reported that a significant number of senior women are committing petty crimes such as shoplifting in order to go to prison. There, they have people to talk to, work to do, and are cared for in ways they are not finding outside the walls. Nearly 1 in 5 women in prison in Japan are above age 65.

Japan also has the sixth highest suicide rate in the world, especially among the elderly.

Family matters. Ideas have consequences. Not just for people, but for entire nations.

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